I could not help but notice that many of the suggestions made on the issue of workers being denied their fair wage are responsive in nature - addressing, prosecuting and ameliorating cases after salaries have already been withheld ("Over $11,000 raised for foreign worker who was owed wages", Jan 26; and "Set up fund to help unpaid migrant workers" by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, Jan 30).
A more permanent solution to this issue would be a preventive one.
I propose three points of legislation aimed at deterring errant employers.
First, companies in industries where unpaid wages have proven especially prevalent should be subjected to thorough vetting before they are allowed to employ new foreign labourers.
A clean bill of financial health and a good record of paying workers on time should be prerequisites, as should an absence of complaints regarding abuse and poor living conditions.
Firms that run afoul of the regulations should be blacklisted for a prescribed period, during which they must demonstrate improvements to procedures before they can be permitted to hire migrant workers again.
Second, it should be mandatory for employers to provide adequate insurance coverage, healthcare benefits and decent dormitory accommodation, without any direct deduction from workers' pay.
Third, the Labour Court should have the power to issue "temporary work permits" allowing migrant workers with pending cases of withheld wages to seek gainful employment elsewhere, if they so choose, until the cases have been resolved.
Migrant status is no justification for exploitation of these labourers.
They must be afforded the legal protections that all other workers in this country enjoy.
Paul Chan Poh Hoi