Boss demanded $14k, threatened to deport him

In two versions of a similar tale, some foreign workers here paid thousands of dollars for promises of jobs overseas that did not materialise, while other foreign workers chalked up debt to work in Singapore, only to find that those who hired them are shell companies and they are left to fend for themselves. The Sunday Times investigates how some foreign workers are lured here while others are lured away.

Mr Gu said the worst part of his plight was having to tell his family back home about his situation.
Mr Gu said the worst part of his plight was having to tell his family back home about his situation.

Frantic that his work permit had suddenly been cancelled five months after he arrived here, construction worker Gu Sheng Zhou called his employer repeatedly one day to demand why.

He got no answers. Instead, the 43-year-old's employer picked him up in his car and dropped him off at a police station.

All had seemed rosy when Mr Gu first arrived from China in July 2014 for a job that promised up to $8 per hour. But when he arrived, his employer demanded $14,000 from him, threatening to deport him if he did not hand over the money.

He only worked for a total of 10 days at the company. The rest of the time, he was told to find his own work and lodging. The worst part, he said, was telling his family about his plight. "What would they think if I didn't even give a reason for not sending money home?"

He has a wife and three children, who are still in school, back home.

After the police referred Mr Gu to the Manpower Ministry, he managed to find a job with another construction firm. But he still shudders when he thinks back on his last employer. "I don't hate him. Hatred can't resolve the problem, but I want him to return the money," he said.

Jessie Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline 'Boss demanded $14k, threatened to deport him'. Subscribe