Weak labour laws: Only 1% of 4,500 errant employers were charged?

By: Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Parliament: 158 employers convicted in the last three years for not paying workers” (Straits Times, Feb 6).

It states that “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.

Only 53 employers charged per year?

158 employers divided by three years works out to about 53 employers per year.

Only 1% of employers charged?

As to “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” – does it mean that on the average – only about 1.2 per cent (53 divided by 4,500) of the employers who were the subject of non-payment of salary complaints, were hauled to court in a year?

What about the other 4,447 employers?

What about the rest of the estimated 4,447 (4,500 – 53) employers?

With regard to “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 – does it mean that they (4,447 employers) were not penalised at all in any way?

“Resolved” means … ?

Also, does “resolved” mean that 100 per cent of the unpaid salaries were recovered by the affected workers?

How long did it take?

A very significant and important statistic may be missing here. What was the average time taken from the lodgement of the complaint to the payment of the unpaid salaries? Did it take many months?

Not resolved means no money?

In respect of “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.”

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.

“Continue our support for them” means … ? 

“We will continue to strengthen our support for them,” he added” – what and how exactly have these 208 or 199 workers been helped financially (“We will continue to strengthen our support for them”)?

Financial help from April?

As to “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” – what and how exactly can workers expect to be helped financially, from April?

For example, how much of their unpaid salaries are expected to be given to them by way of the “can get financial help from a panel that will be set up in April”?

How much “financial help”?

In this connection, as I understand that we collect a few billion dollars a year from foreign worker levies and application fees – how much will be used to give “financial help”?

Complain as soon as possible?

With regard to “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.

Complain and get fired?

“This will greatly improve the chances of successfully resolving their claims before the employers reach dire financial straits,” he said” – the primary and perhaps common reason for workers who have not been paid delaying their complaints to the MOM, may be due to the weak labour protection laws in Singapore, which may allow employers to terminate an employee without any reason.

In other words, if you complaint – you may become jobless immediately and also run the risk of not recovering or waiting for a very long time to recover some or all of your unpaid salaries.

 

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