SINGAPORE: NTUC U Care Centre handled about 320 cases of employers not paying their workers’ salaries from April 2017 to June this year, according to the labour movement's Assistant Secretary-General Zainal Sapari in a blog post published on Tuesday (Sep 18).
This works out to about 20 cases per month – and the total salary owed to these workers was S$1.66 million, he added. Of this amount, S$233,674 - or about 14 per cent - was recovered, NTUC U Care Centre said.
The centre supports low-wage workers in Singapore by providing them with guidance on work-related issues. It is also the final option workers can turn to when seeking help to recover their salaries.
Mr Zainal, who is also the director of the centre, noted in his post that some workers simply do not know what to do if they do not receive their salaries and will just wait it out.
There are also workers who continue to work despite not being paid as they may be hesitant to lodge a salary claim with the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM).
“Some may fear losing their jobs if they made a complaint against their employers for not paying them on time,” wrote Mr Zainal. “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.”
A persistent failure to pay workers on time is a “tell-tale sign” that a company is struggling, he added.
He noted that most workers receive their salaries in full after mediation at TADM or adjudication at Employment Claims Tribunals. Citing figures from TADM, he said that four in five cases of salary claims by workers were successfully resolved at TADM.
“This is not surprising because the Ministry of Manpower takes a no-nonsense approach if the employer is found to have contravened the relevant employment laws, and will not hesitate to take the appropriate enforcement action,” he said.
Workers who are still unable to recover their salaries fully are then referred to the U Care Centre to explore other options. This includes filing a Writ of Seizure and Sale (WSS). Of the 320 cases handled by the U Care Centre, 13 of them went down this route.
He explained that the WSS order issued by the court will allow the affected workers to take possession of assets owned by the company, and workers can then sell these assets to help recover the salaries due to them.
This is a “time-consuming process” but when WSS is feasible, the option has proven to be effective, he said.
Mr Zainal stressed that workers should empower themselves to minimise the chances of them being denied their rightful pay. They should seek employment in unionised companies if they can help it, or be a union member to ensure that they can get the necessary union assistance.
“Should you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, or if you know of someone who has fallen victim, do remember that the chances of recovering salary arrears are higher when the company is still in operations,” he wrote.