Former interns say they 'worked in fear' at software firm

THE software company supervisor at the centre of an employee- abuse scandal is facing new allegations from two former interns.

The two women approached the media to tell how they "worked in fear" at Encore eServices because of their boss' apparent explosive temper.

They came forward after reading newspaper reports earlier this week of a YouTube video, which showed a young man being hit repeatedly by his supervisor at Encore eServices' Jurong East office.

One of the women - who asked to be identified as Miss Liang, 23 - told Chinese language daily Shin Min that she worked at the company during an internship arranged by her university in 2011.

She spoke of how she was forced to withstand scolding sessions by her boss - named only as Alan and thought to be in his 40s - that lasted for more than an hour in locked rooms.

"He listed down all my mistakes and made me feel worthless. I broke down in tears a few times," she recalled, adding that she worked for about 10 hours every day. She quit after two months.

The other intern, a 20-year- old who asked not to be named, spoke of how she worked for nine weeks at Encore before quitting, during a TV interview on Monday. She said she spent every day there working in fear because of Alan's threats to fire her.

The alleged abuse of the male employee came to light in a 17-second video uploaded on YouTube last Friday. It shows a man continually hitting the head of his younger subordinate and using vulgar language on him.

According to Shin Min, the victim is a 29-year-old university graduate, who was also an intern.

The newspaper reported yesterday he claimed to have worked for three years at Encore, drawing a monthly pay of only $500 without any bonuses or leave. His parents are said to be seeking $100,000 in compensation from the firm for their son's ill treatment.

Encore eServices director Lee Yew Nam could not be contacted yesterday. When The Straits Times visited Encore's Jurong East office yesterday, the unit was locked and empty.

A worker in the same building, who did not want to be named, claimed the supervisor involved in the alleged abuse was known for his bad temper and could often be heard raising his voice.

Human resource experts said physical abuse in workplaces is rare but they have heard of it happening among rank-and-file workers. Their bosses may have the perception that it is difficult to reason with them, and physical abuse is the clearest way of showing their displeasure. But it is common to hear of staff being abused psychologically or emotionally.

Singapore Human Resources Institute executive director David Ang said workplace abuse can be prevented if supervisors are trained to manage employees with respect. Companies should also have channels for employees to share their grievances openly.

ameltan@sph.com.sg

maryamm@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Joanna Lee