Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Moonlighting 'barbers' get caught

3 foreign workers arrested for work permit violations
By Kash Cheong And Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 24 Feb 2014

FOREIGN workers who were moonlighting as barbers dropped their tools and fled when officers from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and National Environment Agency (NEA) raided the Tuas area yesterday.

Three illegal barbers - two Indians and one Bangladeshi - were arrested for contravening work permit and environmental health regulations.

The barbers, who are actually construction workers, usually turned to their sideline on Sundays when they are free.

With simple tools such as scissors, combs and shavers, they set up makeshift stalls along the pavement of Tuas South Avenue 1, where fellow workers could get a haircut for just $4.

But what would have been a field day for business turned into a nightmare for them yesterday, when more than 15 MOM and NEA officers swooped in at around 12pm.

On seeing the officers, the barbers and two customers took to their heels.

But one customer, Mr Mahamud Kondoka, sat through the whole raid, wearing a barber's gown.

The 45-year-old construction worker said he did not know that such makeshift barbers were illegal.

"I come here to cut hair because it is cheap," said Mr Mahamud, who lives in a dormitory nearby.

When interviewed, the three arrested barbers said they were moonlighting to earn extra money for themselves or their families.

One of them, Mr Turuvala Viswanadham, 24, said: "I cut hair for extra money to makan (eat) or drink."

Another, Mr Das Palash Chandra, 29, said he needed the extra cash as his father fell from a coconut tree while picking fruits and could no longer work as a farmer.

"I come to cut hair on Sunday to send money home to my family," he said.

"I do this job for my family."

The Bangladeshi man is understood to have worked as a barber from 8am to 6pm on Sundays, and served about 10 customers.

This means he would have made about $40 on each Sunday - a boost to the income of $750 he earns each month as a construction worker.

However, moonlighting is illegal, MOM said.

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, foreign workers should work for only the employer specified in their work permits.

They should not be self-employed or work for another employer for monetary gain.

Those caught doing so may face a fine of up to $20,000 and up to two years in jail.

MOM enforced these rules against 567 moonlighting foreign workers in 2012, and 592 moonlighting foreign workers last year.

They were either prosecuted, fined or warned.

Yesterday, the three illegal barbers were taken to MOM for further questioning.

They are also being investigated by the NEA for offering barber services at an inappropriate site.

Under the Environmental Public Health (Public Cleansing) Regulations, it is an offence for an individual who acts as a barber to carry out his business in areas such as roads, footways and back lanes.

Carrying out the business in common passageways, corridors, stairways and courtyards or landings of any premises is also not permitted.

The maximum penalty is $1,000, $2,000 and $5,000 for the first, second and subsequent convictions, respectively.

Moonlighting workers pose safety hazards

I APPLAUD the authorities' efforts in clamping down on foreign workers who moonlight ("Moonlighting 'barbers' get caught"; Monday).

Foreign workers should not be working for other employers or setting up illegal businesses, because doing so would deprive them of adequate rest, posing safety and health hazards to themselves and others.

However, I understand that the foreign workers who moonlighted as barbers were doing so because they needed to earn extra money for themselves or their families.

So I hope the authorities will exercise some flexibility when meting out any punishment.

Also, some employers ask their maids to perform chores outside of the standard arrangements, such as working in their retail shops or restaurants, or in the homes of their relatives or friends.

Is this considered moonlighting?

Muhammad Dzul Azhan Haji Sahban
ST Forum, 26 Feb 2014

Help moonlighting 'barbers'

I AM surprised that the authorities arrested some foreign workers who were moonlighting as barbers ("Moonlighting 'barbers' get caught"; Monday).

As an educator, I am aware that we are trying to get our students to think out of the box, and be enterprising and creative. As a nation, we are on a big drive to boost productivity.

Surely, it is better to engage these "barbers" and find ways for them to be legal barbers on the side. After all, they were working hard and investing their time productively.

We should address the demand for cheap haircuts among foreign workers, and find ways for the hard-working among them to earn an honest dollar.

Tan Lai Yong
ST Forum, 26 Feb 2014

Moonlighting foreigners in breach of the law

IT IS surprising that Mr Tan Lai Yong seems to suggest that the authorities were at fault for arresting the foreign workers ("Help moonlighting 'barbers'"; Forum Online, last Wednesday).

They were clearly in breach of the employment law.

I have come across a sizeable number of foreigners, whether on employment pass, work permit or social visit pass, taking on jobs such as massaging, painting and decorating, electrical wiring and plumbing, computer trouble-shooting, window and house cleaning, and so on.

One of the tell-tale signs of foreigners who are moonlighting is that they enter Singapore on social visit passes for three months, leave, then return shortly for another three months.

While moonlighting, they also explore regular employment opportunities.

They stay with their friends or relatives, who are on valid employment passes.

There are Singaporeans who need these jobs. The authorities should not compromise, nor show sympathy to foreigners caught moonlighting because of the following:
- It is an infringement of Singapore's employment law.
- It defeats the purpose of social enterprises and job-matching services, and deprives Singaporeans of ad-hoc jobs.
- Moonlighting workers pose safety hazards as they have no proper training or licences.
- Foreigners who moonlight and their employers are evading taxes.
- There is no legal recourse for moonlighting foreigners if they are denied payment for work done.
In the past few years, cheap hair salons, whose charges rarely go beyond $10, have sprouted up and are often conveniently located.

There is no need for foreign workers to moonlight as barbers.

Priscilla Poh Beng Hoon (Ms)
ST Forum, 3 Mar 2014

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