Top Stories


    May 19, 2014

    Giro the key to foreign workers' pay woes?

    IT IS a nice job - except that sometimes you don't get paid.

    Earlier this year, two foremen from a landscaping company said that they hadn't been paid for 15 months, save for a small allowance for their meals.

    "They were unwilling to speak up, because they liked the nature of their jobs and had a nice place to live in," Debbie Fordyce, executive committee member of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), told My Paper.

    To better resolve the problem of unpaid wages, the NTUC-backed Migrant Workers' Centre wants all Work Permit holders to receive their salaries electronically, such as through Giro.

    MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang, who wants this to be made mandatory, said: "The problem today is that even if workers come to us... to handle their dispute, gathering the evidence (to prove salary arrears) is still a challenge.

    "It would be better to go one step forward and use electronic payment, so it will be much more clear-cut and easier for us to ensure that all workers receive their pay promptly."

    Mr Yeo said that more foreign workers were seeking MWC's help in settling salary disputes with their employers.

    Some 60 per cent of the 3,500 cases MWC handled last year were salary-related: These included issues of non-payment, delayed payment or illegal deductions from salaries.

    This year's figures look set to exceed last year's, said Mr Yeo, going by the number of cases handled by MWC in the last four months alone. The MWC did not disclose absolute numbers, but said workers had become "more aware" of the foreign workers' advocacy group as an avenue for assistance.

    Ms Fordyce said that such disputes were "more common than they appeared to be".

    "We find that while a lot of workers come to us with work-related injuries, they also have underlying problems with their salaries," she said.

    "Most of them don't receive what they've been promised (when they were first recruited), and they usually don't report any salary-related problems or discrepancies because they're afraid they will lose their jobs."

    Even the two foremen who received no pay and just a small meal allowance did not want to confront their employer, she said. "They thought the employer was giving them a gift with a small amount of money for food."

    The issue of salary arrears for foreign workers was raised earlier in the day by Mr Yeo.

    He was speaking to reporters at a free movie screening at The Cathay Cineplex yesterday, as part of MWC's annual May Day celebrations for some 10,500 foreign workers this year.

    The screenings, which included new releases such as The Amazing Spiderman 2 and Godzilla, also took place at three dormitories and the foreign workers' activity centre in Soon Lee Road.