SINGAPORE: A foreign worker successfully claimed S$13,677.34 from a former employer who had made him work seven days a week with many overtime hours and sign blank payslips. The employer also illegally put the worker, Mr Nazmul Md, to work six weeks before he even had a Training Employment Pass, which means Mr Nazmul could have claimed a higher amount.

Migrant workers organization Transient Workers Count Too – TWC2, which spent months helping Mr Nazmul, who speaks no English, to get what belongs to him, tells his story in detail in a Nov 21 article titled “Cook wins salary case despite employer cooking up evidence.”

Mr Nazmul received an In-principle-Approval (IPA) from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in November last year for a Training Employment Pass. As a cook at a foreign workers’ dormitory, he would earn S$2,800 in Basic Monthly Salary plus S$200 in Fixed Monthly Allowance.

Mr Nazmul began working on Jan 14 this year, one day after he arrived in Singapore. Unbeknown to him, he should not start working until he has his Training Employment Pass. But his employers, Obayed Holdings, put him to work anyway, starting from 11:30 pm to 5:30 am and then from 11:00 am until 5:30 pm, every day, including public holidays. Moreover, as he was alone, he did all the work cooking hundreds of meals alone.

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Obayed Holdings did not register for his work pass until Feb 28. This meant that Mr Nazmul risked being accused of working illegally. And when it came time for him to claim his unpaid salary, it was deemed better for him to exclude this period. It also meant that Obayed Holdings had Mr Nazmul’s services for free for this period.

In April, he received S$1,200 as his salary for March, and then S$1,200 in May for his salary for April. That was all the company gave him. But what was worse is that the younger brother of the company owner, Bangladeshi national Obaidur Rahman, asked him to sign blank payslips twice, once in April and another in May. He took photos of the three payslips he was asked to sign in May.

Due to how the company treated him regarding his salary, Mr Nazmul stopped working for Obayed Holdings by mid-May and then filed complaints with MOM and the TADM, the unit at MOM handling the first stage of salary claims.

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However, Obayed Holdings claimed Mr Nazmul owed the company S$2500 because of personal loans. It also said that he had been paid S$3000 in April. Mr Nazmul disputed this, saying his signature had been falsified and the April pay claim had been from one of the blank payslips he had been asked to sign.

The Employment Claims Tribunal ordered Obayed Holdings to pay the amount of S$13,677.34 salaries due and overtime pay from March to May.

TWC2 added that if Mr Nazmul had been able to claim his salary and overtime pay from the first six weeks at his job, he would have gotten about S$8,000 more in basic and overtime pay.

“When he finally prevailed at the Employment Claims Tribunal (the second stage of the claims process) with a judgement in his favour, it was a supremely affirming moment for our volunteers and staff who had put in months of work to help him. Naturally, for Nazmul, it was the sweetest of victories, too.

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Consider this: Without much education, he had to represent himself in court-like proceedings conducted in English. He had little direct evidence to support his case. It would be daunting even for a university graduate in any subject other than law,” TWC2 added. /TISG

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