Labour MP to  ‘Tai-Chi’ Employer : O$P$!

Labour MP to ‘Tai-Chi’ Employer : O$P$!

“An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay” and “to make an honest living” are some of the phrases that we are very familiar with. Unless you are a volunteer, everyone works for a living and every worker looks forward to their payday.

Yet, there are workers who are not paid their salaries in a timely manner, and worse still, there are some who do not get paid at all. Under the Employment Act, it is the obligation of employers to pay their workers’ salaries at least once a month and within seven days after the end of the salary period.

Sadly, there are some workers who are owed salaries by their employers, but do not lodge their salary claim with Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) or the union in a timely manner to enable their salaries to be recovered. Sometimes, these workers simply do not know what to do if they do not receive their salaries and will just wait it out.

While the number of cases where workers are unable to get back their salaries is a very small percentage, for the families affected, their hardship is real. The unpaid bills are real.

The Ghost Employer

In a case of unpaid salaries involving six elderly cleaners employed by the same employer over a period, the workers were not paid their salaries for work done even though the employer, operating a licensed cleaning business, was receiving the service fee from the service buyers. Unfortunately, it was not easy for the workers to track their employer to claim their unpaid salaries or even enforce Writ of Seizure & Sale (WSS) because it was a one-man company whose registered business address was a rented office space which had been vacated for many years.

It appeared that the errant employer had been using the same tactics on these vulnerable workers. These workers were assisted by NTUC U Care Centre (UCC) and their plight was highlighted to the authorities. After their investigation, the National Environment Agency decided not to renew the company’s cleaning license.

The ‘Tai-Chi’ Employer

In another case involving eight employees assisted by UCC, the company did not pay the workers their salaries for many months and the Central Provident Fund Board (CPFB) was hot on the employer’s heels to recover the employees’ CPF arrears. The workers were asked by the employer to resign and sign a new contract with a new company, set up by their same employer.

Hence, the records of the previous company would show that it no longer had any staff and the employer hoped that CPFB would not focus on them. The helpless staff agreed to this arrangement because if they did not, their employer would be forced to pay the CPF first, at the expense of them getting their salaries.

Unfortunately, by the time reality sets in that their employer was unable to pay, most of the workers were owed more than a month’s salary, with some not getting paid for more than three months.

Silence is Not Golden

A persistent failure to pay workers on time is a tell-tale sign that a company is struggling. There are also workers who continue to work despite not being paid as they may be hesitant to lodge a salary claim at TADM so as not to sour the relationship with their employers.

Some might fear they would lose their jobs if they made a complaint against their employers for not paying them on time. These workers suffer in silence and continue working for their employers hoping that a miracle will happen – that the company will be blessed with good fortune to finally pay their salaries.

Get Help! Fast!

For some, not getting paid on time may mean not having enough for daily living expenses or other financial commitments. What should you do if your employer fails to pay you on time for the work you have done?

First, clarify with your employer to settle the owed salaries.

Next, if your employer is still unable or unwilling to pay, come forward to seek help from TADM or your union as soon as possible. This will prevent the owed amounts from getting bigger, and it would give you the best chance to recover your salaries.

NTUC’s affiliated unions had been mostly successful in helping affected workers recover their salary arrears. If the case is escalated to TADM for mediation, union members have the advantage of enjoying the benefit of a higher claim limit of up to $30,000 (as opposed to $20,000 for non-union members) and can have a union representative be present at the mediation session. The higher claim limit would especially benefit union members who are professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) as the salaries owed to them can run into the thousands of dollars. (Hint: Be a union member to enjoy better protection)

Extracts from a blog post by NTUC Assistant Secretary-General, Zainal Sapari. Full blog post at this link:

If you’d like to contribute your story to us, drop us an email at [email protected] and we’ll review it. We read each submission that comes to us within two weeks of receiving it.


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I am now Speaker of Parliament of Sureboh Singapore. I will speak a lot and write a lot of friendly-friendly stories about Singapore. I love to run around Singapore and meet old cardboard ladies. When you see me, you must bow to me please.
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