SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has hauled 158 employers to court in the last three years for not paying their workers salaries.
All of them were convicted by the courts.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said in Parliament on Monday that the ministry prosecutes serious and repeated cases for deterrent purposes, but does not intend to criminalise all cases in which employers do not pay their workers especially in cases where employers cannot pay due to business failures.
Last year, the MOM received 9,000 complaints against 4,500 employers who did not pay their workers. About 95 per cent of the cases were resolved by the ministry and the Labour Court, Mr Lim said.
Of the 208 salary claims that were not resolved last year, 199 of them involved employers who had either ceased operating or were about to close their businesses due to financial difficulties.
In these cases, the workers had a slim chance of recovering payments from their employers, Mr Lim said, adding: "This is not because the employers could just ignore and refuse to pay up, but because they are mostly in deep financial difficulties."
For work injury compensation, five of 16,000 workers who were injured last year did not receive their compensation as their employers did not insure them. This represents 0.1 per cent of the work injury cases the MOM handled last year.
Of the five workers who did not receive their work injury compensation, four were foreigners and one was a local. The employers in these five cases are being prosecuted, Mr Lim said.
While nearly all the salary disputes and work injury compensation cases were resolved, he said, the MOM is concerned about the small number of cases where the workers were unable to recover their claims because their employers no longer have the financial means to pay.
"We will continue to strengthen our support for them," he added.
Local workers with salary claims can get financial help from a panel that will be set up in April by the MOM, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) to resolve salary disputes.
Singaporeans who are seriously injured and did not receive compensation can get financial aid from a Workers' Fund that the MOM runs.
Foreign workers can turn to the Migrant Workers' Centre set up by NTUC and SNEF.
Mr Lim urged workers to bring their salary complaints to MOM the moment they are not paid, saying there was no need to wait for months to pass.
"This will greatly improve the chances of successfully resolving their claims before the employers reach dire financial straits," he said.