SINGAPORE: About 40 workers who turned up at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) building on Monday (Jan 7) claiming they were unfairly dismissed by Dyna-Mac Engineering Services were found to have been fairly treated, an MOM spokesperson said on Thursday (Jan 10).
The spokesperson added that the ministry and the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) have determined that the affected workers were not owed salaries and received pay in lieu of notice.
The workers were part of a group of 91 migrant workers from India, Bangladesh and Myanmar who were affected in the company's retrenchment exercise last Friday.
Dyna-Mac Engineering Services’ vice-president for human resources Chong Swee Lee told Channel NewsAsia that it carried out the exercise based on MOM’s guidelines.
“The reasons provided to the affected workers were that the current project is already completing and with no new projects on hand, there is little or no work available for us to place and deploy the affected tradesmen,” she said.
The next project is estimated to start only in the middle of the year, she added. Hence the company is implementing various cost improvement measures and will “painfully undergo” a right-sizing exercise “in order to survive”.
“Furthermore, the oil and gas sector in Singapore has not picked up momentum even as 2019 began, which is not what the market had expected. We have been tendering aggressively for new projects and out of those projects which were released for tendering, very few were finally sanctioned and the number of major projects awarded to Singapore yards is less than a handful,” she added.
As part of the retrenchment, Dyna-Mac Engineering Services provided the workers a week's pay in-lieu of notice.
The workers said they received between S$80 and S$100 each depending on their daily wage.
MOM is extending help to these workers.
It has assisted six workers who have been working in Singapore for less than six months to obtain a partial refund of the employment agency fees paid.
It is also helping some workers who are keen to continue working in Singapore.
Along with TADM, it is working with Dyna-Mac to provide these workers some time to look for new employers in Singapore.
The Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) is also in touch with the workers to extend further assistance.
Its chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said that MWC has been giving “ex gratia assistance” to the affected workers. It will also help them look for new employment by tapping its own network.
“Generally, as migrant workers are skilled in a certain area of work, it can be challenging for them to find employment in another sector since they lack the required skill sets. We are working closely with the tripartite partners to enhance the process of helping displaced workers find new employment, to give them more reassurance in this area,” Mr Yeo said.
‘WE ALL CAME HERE ON A TWO-YEAR WORK CONTRACT’
Bangladeshi worker Jitu Noor Tanvir, 27, told Channel NewsAsia that the workers came to Singapore with the understanding and a work agreement that they will be contracted to work for two years.
To afford the agent fees to work in Singapore, some of them took loans and these have not been fully repaid. He said they paid between S$5,000 and S$9,000 to their agent in order to secure a job in Singapore.
Mr Alex Au of non-profit organisation Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), said workers who have not fully repaid the loans could face problems.
"Moneylenders from whom they borrowed money to pay the agents might come after them or their families back home. The family would also be under stress," he said.
Mr Jitu said the workers were handed their termination papers last Friday.
“They one-by-one call the name and asked to go (to the) safety room. Then inside safety room, they gave the termination paper. ... They said 'We are sorry to tell you today is the last day of work',” he said.
“If they knew they only have a one-year project, why did they not inform us at the start? We would not have paid the agency for a two-year contract if we only come for one year,” Mr Jitu said. He started work in Singapore 13 months ago.
"I have loans. I'm making money for my family who are sick. What's going to happen to my family? It's a very difficult situation. It's better that I die than go back to my country," Mr Jitu added.
While the option to look for work under a different employer is available, seven affected workers Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that it is almost impossible to do so. TWC2's research has also found that only about 10 per cent of workers succeed in getting new jobs.
“Where do we find the money to pay the agent fees again?” said 31-year-old Jayakumar from India. The workers are also not allowed to look for work outside the sector which their work permits are tagged to. In this instance, these workers are only allowed to look for jobs in the marine sector.
"I know of a cleaning job that I can try for but I'm not allowed to because I'm from marine sector," said Mr Jitu.
Without work, the workers have to be repatriated back to their home country soon.
"It's very urgent. It could be this week," said Bijaya Kumar Behera from India.
Additional reporting by Ainslee Asokan.