Mediation scheduled between construction workers and employer over unpaid wages

Affected construction workers from Stargood Construction heading to a minimart to collect their donated groceries on March 7, 2019.
Affected construction workers from Stargood Construction heading to a minimart to collect their donated groceries on March 7, 2019.PHOTO: MIGRANT WORKERS' CENTRE

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

Meanwhile, the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) will supply groceries to the workers, with the help of a sponsor, and provide them with other support such as accommodation, said MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang in a statement to the media on Thursday (March 7).

He said the MWC has been in touch with the group since Wednesday afternoon after a group of more than 30 workers gathered at the site of the old Central Provident Fund building to demand answers about their unpaid salaries from the construction project's main contractor.

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

Their presence 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 (TADM) is assisting workers with their salary claims," said a spokesman for MOM, adding that investigations are ongoing.

The police said no further assistance was required after they advised the parties involved. 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, adding that they could have been charged with unlawful trespass if they had entered when they were not supposed to.

 
 

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

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

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

"These are not our workers, so we are just helping to tide them over until they can stand on their own feet," said Mr Lek.

Two of the affected workers told The Straits Times it was the first time Stargood had failed to pay their wages in their eight years working for the firm.

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 to do is to get the money owed to me and return home."