Singapore’s Claims Tribunal Awards Migrant Worker Over S$13,600 in Owed Salary After Six-Month Mediation, Legal Process

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After a mediation and legal process lasting close to six months, a migrant worker in Singapore was awarded S$13,677 (RM47,777) in owed salary earlier this month by the Employment Claims Tribunal.

This was after a previous mediation effort between the worker and his employer arranged by the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) had failed. 

Migrant workers’ rights group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) had published an article on its website on Nov 21 detailing how Nazmul Md, who worked as a cook at a canteen stall in a migrant workers’ dormitory in Punggol, had allegedly been “exploited” by his employer, Obayed Holdings.

TWC2 also alleged that TADM had managed his case with “sloppiness”, which the group claimed that this then affected the outcome of the proceedings at the Employment Claims Tribunal, which is under the State Courts.

TADM, which is jointly set up by the Ministry of Manpower (MoM), the National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation, provides employees and employers with services to resolve salary-related claims and employment disputes.

It does so by first trying to mediate between the worker and the employer, before escalating the matter to the claims tribunal if a settlement cannot be reached. 

In that event, it would issue a claim referral certificate to the tribunal, which outlines the amount that the worker intends to argue he is owed. 

What TWC2 said

In a post on its website last week, TWC2 said that when Nazmul approached TADM to file a complaint in mid-May, TADM had helped him calculate how much he was owed in terms of his fixed salary and overtime pay.

However, the rights group said that the calculations were inaccurate, as they did not reflect the time Nazmul worked on Sundays and public holidays.

According to the Employment Act, a worker is entitled to twice his basic rate of pay if he works on his scheduled rest days on the request of his employer — if the period of work is more than half but does not exceed the employee’s normal hours of work — compared to 1.5 times for overtime.

TWC2 said that TADM had also overestimated Nazmul’s rightful quantum for the month of April. 

These miscalculations had limited Nazmul’s claiming rights, TWC2 said, and could also “jeopardise a worker’s case at the tribunal”. 

What TADM said

In response to TODAY’s queries, a TADM spokesperson said that the organisation had “handled the case professionally and appropriately”.

“TADM had filed the worker’s claims as presented by the worker. This included an additional salary claim which the worker raised during mediation,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that its mediator was “helpful” to Nazmul throughout the claims process and that the claims filed to the claims tribunal were acknowledged by him.

“When the claims could not be resolved through mediation, TADM assisted the worker to further his claims at the Employment Claims Tribunal, which effectively led to resolution of the matter.” 

TADM also said that claimants are “responsible for their claims, and have a role to play in ensuring the veracity and accuracy of the claim items filed at TADM”, adding that claimants are informed that they are able to add or amend the details of their claims throughout the mediation process.

What happened 

According to TWC2’s article published last week, Nazmul first received an in-principle approval from the MoM in November 2022 for a training employment pass, and arrived in Singapore on Jan 13 this year. 

While it is normal procedure for an employer to inform the MoM that the worker has arrived in Singapore and subsequently register for the training employment pass, Nazmul’s employer did not do so until a month later, on Feb 28.

He was not allowed to work until he received his work pass, which arrived on March 2.

However, Nazmul started work on Jan 14 as a cook at a Bangladeshi food stall in a migrant worker dormitory with 13,000 residents.

From January to May, Nazmul worked 12-and-a-half hours every day for seven days a week, including Sundays and public holidays. He had two shifts — 11.30pm to 5.30am and 11.00am to 5.30pm — resting and consuming his meals outside those hours.

During these five months, the only payments Nazmul received were two cash payments of S$1,200 each, purportedly his salaries for March and April.

However, the in-principle approval he received earlier indicated that he would receive S$2,800 in basic monthly salary and S$200 in fixed monthly allowance. 

As a manual labourer with a salary under S$4,500, he would also be entitled to overtime pay under the Employment Act.

Sometime in mid-May, Nazmul stopped working for his employer and approached MoM, TADM and, subsequently, TWC2 for assistance. 

Several mediation attempts between Nazmul and his employer conducted online were not successful, and TADM subsequently issued him with a referral certificate on July 11 to escalate the matter to the claims tribunal.

The tribunal hearing took place online on Nov 8, with Nazmul appearing via video link representing himself. TWC2 had helped Nazmul, who does not speak English, with the preparations for the hearing. 

Nazmul’s employer was eventually ordered to pay him S$13,677 in owed salary.

TWC2 told TODAY that Nazmul would be looking for a new job following the conclusion of the case, but noted that “it will be difficult given his skill set”.

TADM said it has referred the case to MoM to investigate the employer for possible breaches of the employment laws. 

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