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I refer to recent articles about the plight of Bangladeshi worker Islam Rafiqul, who failed to obtain any of the salary owed to him despite the fact that there was a judgment from the labour court in favour of his claim. The outpouring of support for him is testament to how readers felt the injustice of the situation and we are glad that The Straits Times and Transient Workers Count Too highlighted his story.
To avoid a similar situation from happening again, we agree with Mr Toh Yong Chuan’s commentary (26 January 2016) that measures need to be implemented to ensure that workers have accessible legal recourse when they are not paid. In a paper which HOME submitted to the Ministry of Manpower last year during its call for feedback about the new Employment Claims Tribunal, we recommended that the Ministry of Manpower should issue orders to pay the labour court directly, which will hold the funds in escrow to be disbursed to workers. Employers are less likely to default on payments to be made directly to the court, as they would be unable to take advantage of the worker’s inadequate resources to enforce an order.
We also recommended that the MOM creates a fund for workers who are owed wages due to companies experiencing financial difficulty and insolvency. The fund can be financed by corporate taxes, foreign worker levies or forfeited security bonds. Hong Kong has a similar scheme known as the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Ordinance.
In a parliamentary speech in August last year, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said that the Ministry of Manpower would be establishing a fund for vulnerable local workers whose companies cannot pay them. (see http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/less-costly-way-for-pmes-to-make-salary-claims )
We welcome this positive development and urge the Ministry to extend it to low wage migrant workers.
We join in the call for such changes to be made, when the powers of the labour court will be expanded with the establishment of the Employment Claims Tribunal in April.
For a full list of HOME’s recommendations, please see http://www.home.org.sg/home-submits-its-views-on-the-proposed-employment-claims-tribunal/
Acting Executive Director
Humanitarian Organsation for Migration Economics (HOME)