By: Marianne Goh

When Mr Luke Tan, HOME’s caseworker handed out $9000-$12000 to Mon (name changed to protect identity) and his 6 colleagues, it was a sweet victory for these factory workers who have been extorted of their hard earned money by their employer.

“We were lucky to come HOME, and then HOME help we all,” said Mon.

As early as 2010, their employer had demanded kickbacks of S$3000 a year from the Bangladeshi workers who wish to continue with the company. By November 2015, the amount had swelled to S$6000.

Their pleas to their employer fell on deaf ears. If they did not comply, they would lose their jobs. According to Mon, “Boss say no money…automatic go back”, “don’t renew, don’t renew la, I’m not forcing you..” and “you no money, I help you to go home..”.

At S$6000 per head for 60 Bangladeshi workers in the factory, that works out to S$360 000 of ill gotten gains a year for the employer.

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Mr Luke Tan assisted Mon and his 6 co-workers to lodge a complaint with MOM, which is currently pending investigation. He also contacted the employer to demand that he return the kickbacks to his workers.

Mon himself had to support four family members with his pay, while two of his companions had five other family members.

Mon’s employer not only repaid the 7 workers who approached HOME, but also paid all the Bangladeshi workers whom he took “kickbacks” from, in a bid to discourage other workers from filing similar complaints.

“It is quite a common practice now, we are seeing not only small companies doing this, but also big companies that have been doing the same thing,”  said Mr Luke Tan.

What happened to Mon and his colleagues is merely the tip of the iceberg. According to S22A of the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, receiving kickbacks (i.e money for the renewal of the worker’s work permit) is illegal.

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Such employers take advantage of their workers’ ignorance of their rights to reduce their business costs.

Having coughed up to $10,000 as recruitment fees, these workers have to work at least 2-years to recover their debts before they can start providing for their families.

Even if the worker manages to lodge a complaint with MOM, not all are as lucky as Mon and his colleagues.

“In many instances MOM rejects such cases because it is almost impossible for workers to gather sufficient evidence. Employers won’t leave a paper trail when money changes hands.” explained HOME’s case worker, Luke Tan.

To deter employers from taking kickbacks, it is crucial that stronger enforcement and stricter checks are necessary.

Republished from the website of Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME).