Thursday, January 1, 2009

China workers cry foul

By Melissa Sim

More than 100 workers from China were at the Manpower Ministry yesterday to lodge complaints against their bosses for not paying them on time. At least four such incidents involving foreign workers occurred last month. -- ST PHOTO: SAMUEL HE

OVER 100 construction workers from China thronged the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday, claiming they had not been paid their salaries.

They form the latest group of foreign workers turning to the authorities for help, with the economic downturn biting. At least four such incidents involving about 400 workers cropped up last month.

The workers' complaints have been similar - that they are unpaid, unfed, have little hope of finding work and, in some cases, poorly housed, if at all.

Labour MP Halimah Yacob told The Straits Times that both foreigners and locals will be hit by the economic slowdown. She stressed that foreign workers 'should be paid their salaries and other benefits due to them'.

'They should not be exploited just because they are foreigners,' she said, following the abandonment of 180 workers by their sub-contractor two weeks ago.

Yesterday's case involving the China workers surfaced because, following MOM's intervention on Tuesday, the workers were still unhappy with their two employers' offer.

About 200 workers first approached MOM for help on Tuesday, saying they had each been given allowances of $200 a month in their first three months here, with their first full salaries paid only in the fourth month. Most said they have not been paid at all since September.

They were also unhappy that Zhonghe Huaxing Development and China Nuclear Industry Huaxing Construction had unilaterally slashed their net salaries from about $700 a month to about $400 starting last month.

After MOM intervened on Tuesday, the employers agreed to bank September's salaries and pay the rest of the money by Chinese New Year.

Yesterday, the workers were back at the ministry because, they said, they had not received their September pay and did not want to wait until Chinese New Year for the rest of what was owed to them.

An MOM spokesman said some of the workers have returned to work, but others still had additional issues to raise with the ministry. MOM, which said it was looking into the matter, was unable to give further details.

Straits Times

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