MOM's advice out of step with reality

Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) agrees with the Ministry of Manpower that workers should come forward and report salary abuses as early as possible (Foreign workers should lodge complaints without delay; Aug 19).

However, the reality is that the workers are not always able to do this.

Almost all work permit holders would have paid thousands of dollars to get their jobs.

To lodge a report with the MOM would mean writing off this sunk cost.

For a worker, the more rational thing to do is continue working, in the hope that the company's fortunes improve and he is subsequently paid.

The ministry needs to get serious and crack down on high recruitment costs, whether incurred in Singapore or abroad. This may involve redesigning the entire recruitment system to cut out middlemen.

So long as recruitment costs are not addressed, saying that the ministry would have taken action against the employer had the workers come forward immediately is akin to blaming the victim for the ministry's inaction.

The MOM's statement that workers in salary dispute cases would have been offered the chance to find other employers is also meaningless.

The reality is that only a tiny fraction of these workers actually manage to find new jobs.

This is largely because it is much more profitable for employers and their agents to recruit directly from the source countries than to take workers already in Singapore. This, again, is tied to the issue of high recruitment fees.

TWC2 urges the MOM to monitor the pool of foreign workers already in Singapore and looking for jobs, and restrict hiring from abroad until this pool has shrunk to a certain size.

Doing so helps retain experience and skills within the country rather than open the door wide to inexperienced new workers.

Alex Au

Treasurer

Transient Workers Count Too

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2017, with the headline 'MOM's advice out of step with reality'. Print Edition | Subscribe