The authorities harassing workers?

Reading this report by Alex Au – “Injured worker awarded $69,000 in compensation, employer not paying” – is disturbing. While the situation of the worker in question is not entirely new  [see this other case], Alex’s report that “the [MOM] officer was intent on tripping him [Uzzal] up, and fishing for ways to reverse the court order; perhaps even looking for a way to prosecute him for lying under oath” is appalling, if true.

Just recently, the Minister for Manpower was laying down his “zero tolerance” stance on workers who go on strike, during the SMRT drivers’ saga.


One of the so-called “leader” of the group of Chinese workers was swiftly dealt with, sent off to the courts to face charges, was given a 6 weeks sentence, and upon release, deported.

Another 29 workers too were quickly deported back to China.

The rest were given “stern warnings” by the police.

4 more are facing charges in the courts.

This is how MOM deals with workers who break the law. Workers whom it said did not “go through the proper channels”.

But how does it deal with employers of these workers?

No one in SMRT has been hauled up and punished for all the failures which led to the strike. And employers who refuse to pay up – salaries, compensation, court-ordered payments, etc – seem to get away with it too.

Besides Uzzal’s case, mentioned in Alex’s report, the case of Nepalese Rana Kumar too leaves one wondering whose side it is that MOM is on when clear violations of the law by employers take place.

For example, why – in Uzzal’s case – is the MOM officer more interested in interviewing Uzzal than in enforcing the law and getting the employer to pay up, as the court had ordered? Why harass a poor helpless worker who’s had to put up with two years of uncertainty as he goes through MOM’s much-touted “proper channels” to resolve his dispute?

If what Alex reported is true, the MOM officer should be taken to task and see if he or she has broken any law. Surely, there must be some guidelines or even regulations against such officers interrogating innocent workers for hours on ends.

Any such “interviews”, as no doubt MOM would term it, should be recorded on video, so as to prevent any abuse.

Will MOM do this? Unlikely.

And speaking of harassment, the four SMRT drivers who are awaiting their court hearings have filed police reports “in response to harassment from unidentified persons.” You can read their harrowing account here: “Harassed and Intimidated – SMRT Bus Drivers and NGO Volunteer File Police Report.”

“Since early December, when they were released on bail, He Junling, 32, Gao Yueqiang, 32, Wang Xianjie, 39, Liu Xiangying, 33, have been tailed on several occasions. Says He, “Up until now, we still don’t know the identities of the people who’ve been following us.””

Perhaps our opposition members in Parliament should raise questions with the relevant ministers for some answers. It is unacceptable that workers are being harassed in such a manner. Surely, this cannot be the result of or the way the authorities handle workers’ unhappiness or of workers exercising their rights to their rightful remunerations and compensation.

Has Singapore become a lawless society where the authorities and their officers do as they please without anyone holding them accountable?

Are workers to deal with abuse from the authorities too, besides having to deal with those from their employers?

The Minister for Manpower has some questions to answer here.


In the meantime, here’s a video I made several weeks back, if you haven’t seen it:


6 thoughts on “The authorities harassing workers?

  1. Andrew, why dont you publicize this widely and educate Singaporeans on the plight of these foreign workers. At the same time, the relevant authorities should be made aware of these deplorable conditions and moved to take action. Its really sad that we are not aware of third world conditions in our first world airconditioned nation. Sad, deplorable, pathetic……

    1. Hi Sarah,

      These issues are not new and they have been highlighted many times before, including recommendations made to the MOM by NGOs’ studies and survey reports.

  2. I am simply ashame of the ugly side of Singapore. Everyone I know in Germany thinks Singapore is a noble country – rich, successful, corrupt-free, all the positive aspect, but such slum is appalling. By the way, who are the employers of these workers?

  3. Our MOM works for the benefit of higher mortals. Unskilled migrant workers are lower than lower mortals and are fair game for the employers to make an extra buck off them to improve our all important GDP numbers.

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