Help for workers in dispute over unpaid wages

A mediation session has been set up for a group of construction workers and their employer after the workers gathered at their old worksite in the Central Business District to demand unpaid salaries.

Meanwhile, the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) will supply groceries to the workers, with the help of a sponsor, and provide them with support such as accommodation, said MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang in a statement to the media yesterday.

He said the MWC had been in touch with the group since Wednesday, after more than 30 workers gathered earlier this week at the site of the old Central Provident Fund building to demand answers on their unpaid salaries.

The workers said their employer, subcontractor Stargood Construction, owed them some $300,000 in total for the wages of 59 workers.

Their gathering at the site attracted the attention of the media as well as the police, who advised the group to disperse and seek help from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). "The Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management is assisting the workers with their salary claims," said a spokesman for MOM, adding that investigations are ongoing.

As the worksite is not a public area and the matter was handled peacefully, the workers are unlikely to be arrested, said lawyer Amolat Singh.

Stargood Construction owner Lin Jie Biao, 33, said he owed his workers at least two months worth of wages, but claimed he was unable to pay them as the main contractor - Shimizu Corporation - did not pay him sufficiently for the work.

"I am very sorry to have let down my workers. After all, it's the money they deserve," said Mr Lin, whose firm was hired to do reinforcement, concrete and structural work for the building project.

Mr Bonaventure Lek, Shimuzu Corporation's deputy general manager for the Singapore branch, said the firm was unaware that Stargood had not been paying its employees until recently. He added that the company will work with MWC to help the workers who are affected.

Two of these workers told The Straits Times that it was the first time that Stargood had failed to pay them their wages, in their eight years of working for the company.

Said Mr Zhang Zheng Kun, 51, a Chinese national: "We're all frustrated and at a loss. Singapore is supposed to be a First World country - how can this have happened? It's just unbelievable. All I want is to get the money owed to me and return home."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2019, with the headline 'Help for workers in dispute over unpaid wages'. Print Edition | Subscribe