MOM: Early reporting of errant employers sees better outcomes

We thank Mr Alex Au of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) for his letter (MOM's advice out of step with reality; Aug 23).

Foreign workers who delay the reporting of unpaid salaries face higher risks of not recovering the money from their errant employers.

Last year, more than 4,500 foreign workers approached the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for help with their salary claims.

Of those who did so within three months of non-payment, more than 90 per cent were able to fully recover their unpaid salaries following mediation or adjudication.

In contrast, less than 20 per cent of those who waited close to a year to make their reports succeeded in recovering their salaries in full.

The delay caused the amounts owed by the employers to snowball, and made the workers' situation more dire.

Although such workers constitute a small minority, we urge organisations such as TWC2 to encourage them to come forward sooner rather than later.

Mr Au has called on the MOM to "crack down on high recruitment costs" to reduce the barrier against early reporting.

Our laws already cap the amount of agency fees which a Singapore employment agency can collect from foreign workers.

We also do not permit parties in Singapore to collect kickbacks.

Just last week, a company's director was charged with 21 counts of collecting kickbacks from six of his foreign workers, and faces a fine of up to $30,000 and/or two years' imprisonment per offence if convicted.

However, what happens in their home countries is beyond our jurisdiction. Even so, the MOM continues to engage their embassies and our counterparts when we are made aware of malpractices in their home countries.

Mr Au further suggested that the MOM disallow employers from considering other foreign workers until the pool of workers already here awaiting resolution of their salary claims has been reduced.

This proposal is impractical, given the diverse needs of employers and the varying readiness of the workers to be re-deployed.

Instead, we continue to work with organisations such as the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL) and Migrant Workers' Centre to improve employment facilitation.

For example, SCAL has introduced the Foreign Workers Directory System that seeks to put employers in touch with available workers.

Tan Fang Qun

Director, Joint Operations Division

Ministry of Manpower

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2017, with the headline 'MOM: Early reporting of errant employers sees better outcomes'. Print Edition | Subscribe