Published by The Online Citizen on October 9, 2012 (source)
We had investigated the employment agency (EA) and found that the claims of excessive recruitment fees were unsubstantiated. In fact, the workers admitted that the recruitment fees were never paid to the local EA – all the fees were paid by the workers directly to their employment agents back in China, which lie beyond the reach of our laws.
“Where any employment agency personnel of a licensee, directly or indirectly, charges or receives for his services any sum greater than the prescribed fee, the licensee and the employment agency personnel shall each be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 and, in respect of a second or subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both.”(emphasis added)
“The Panasonic workers allege that the Investigating Officer (IO) seeing to their complaint dismissed it on the basis of the EA’s explanation that the S$3,000 payment from the Chinese EA to the Singapore EA included a refundable portion to the EA upon completion of the worker’s probationary period.”
I , (name of worker), on the 10th May 2012 at the point of leaving China for Singapore, have paid a sum of RMB 15000 to the Singapore intermediate agency to arrange my entry to Singapore Panasonic and all relevant insurance. I understand all details concerning my work in Singapore, company policies, labour laws, company welfare policy, wages, declaration of agreement and all relevant documents. I will also abide by all the documents that I have signed, together with the legal regulations.I, myself upon reaching Singapore, will have the Singapore agent to go through the explanations of what had been said to me when I left for Singapore from China.In the event that I should make any complaints, all will be based on what I have signed in this declaration letter, together with the employment contract signed with the Singapore employment agency. Any issues outside of the content of the contract would not be entertained.If I should quit my job and leave the country due to personal reasons, it would be deemed as a breach of contract. All responsibility and economic damages will be borne by me. The Singapore and China agent will need not return the agent fees. The Singapore agent will reimburse me RMB 10000 If I do not pass my medical check-up and have my entry application rejected.I reiterate once again that I am very clear that I have signed this declaration letter without having being misled; deceived, threatened nor enticed to do so. I cannot go back on my agreement once I leave the borders of China and arrive at Singapore, if I do; all economic damages and responsibility will be borne solely on me. I hereby certify that the information disclosed herein is true and correct.
TOC’s Response to MOM Statement on Panasonic Singapore foreign workers
Published by The Online Citizen on October 11, 2012 (source)
By TOC Team -
Now that an agreement detailing the overcharging by the EA has surfaced, MOM should detail the steps it will take in light of the signed agreement that appears, on the face of the contract, to suggest overcharging by the EA in question.
There have been a few online articles and postings that have distorted the facts and questioned the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) investigation into a case involving foreign workers from Panasonic Singapore and an employment agency (EA). These inaccuracies and allegations have cast serious aspersions on the integrity of MOM’s officers.
The total footage ran for more than 51 minutes, and came in 8 parts. Our officers scrutinised the video footage extensively and concluded that an investigation was warranted. We then proceeded to call up the EA for an interview. This was in March 2012.
Yet, MOM has all the powers under the law to enforce its will. How did it come to this that employers can defy it with assured impunity? Is it a well-known record of non-prosecution? The case officer probably feels disempowered because other senior officers have adopted a policy of closing one eye to worker abuses and not taking employers to task.
The result is that employers now do not pay the full cost of hiring foreign workers. They can defy the ministry and refuse to bear certain costs -- in this case, medical care. If employers were made to bear the full cost of foreign workers, it might have made foreign workers a little less cheap, and in some small way reduced the cost disadvantage suffered by Singaporean workers.
The frustrated case officer finally told the worker to go anyway for the MRI and pay out of his own pocket but advised him to keep the receipt. Presumably, the officer intends to help the worker recover the cost at the final stage when injury compensation is calculated.
But, after the accident and being out of work since then, the worker is totally broke. He does not have the cash in hand to pay for the MRI first. So the officer's suggestion is no solution.
The system (of letters of guarantee) is meant precisely for such situations, to ensure that workers get timely medical treatment, and employers pay (as required by law). And why is the system not working? Because MOM officers in charge of enforcement have destroyed the system by their own inaction. Foreign workers suffer. Singaporeans suffer.