Boss jailed for not paying workers or providing housing

A company director has been sentenced to 12 weeks' jail for failing to pay workers' salaries and for not providing them with proper accommodation while they waited for payment to be settled.

Teo Choon Chai, 27, of Lian Hup Xin Construction was on Thursday convicted of 18 charges under the Employment Act and two charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

Another 22 charges were taken into consideration, a statement from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said yesterday.

It said the company did not pay salaries totalling more than $15,000 to six foreign workers and Teo had failed to ensure that it fulfilled its legal obligations to the workers.

Lian Hup Xin Construction has been barred from applying for or renewing the work passes of its foreign workers. MOM has suspended all work pass privileges for Teo and any future companies set up by him.

In May last year, the six workers reported that they had not been paid salaries for 31/2 months.

They were also evicted from their dormitory.

Investigations revealed that Teo had incurred gambling debts and did not pay the workers for more than three months. He also failed to ensure housing for them after they were evicted from the temporary quarters provided by the company's main contractor.

MOM has managed to help the foreign workers recover only about half of the amount owed to them after negotiating for ex-gratia payments provided through the security bond insurers.

Mr Raymond Tan Choon Guan, MOM's director of employment standards enforcement, said that workers have a better chance of fully recovering their salaries if they report their salary claims early.

Under the Employment Act, failure to pay salaries within the stipulated deadlines can result in a fine of up to $15,000, or six months' imprisonment, or both, on each charge. Failure to ensure proper housing for foreign workers can result in a maximum fine of $10,000, or 12 months' imprisonment, or both, on each charge, under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

MOM said anyone who knows of people or employers who contravene employment laws should report the matter to the ministry on 1800-221-9922 or e-mail workright@mom.gov.sg. It added that all information would be kept strictly confidential.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2017, with the headline 'Boss jailed for not paying workers or providing housing'. Print Edition | Subscribe