Tuesday 20 May 2014

Migrant Workers Centre to bosses: Pay foreign workers through Giro

By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 19 May 2014

A FOREIGN workers advocacy group backed by the labour movement wants to make it compulsory for firms to pay foreign workers through Giro.

This came after it saw a jump in foreign workers seeking help with pay disputes last year.

The Migrant Workers Centre (MWC) said that besides issuing pay slips to foreign work permit holders - which will be made compulsory by 2016 - employers should also pay salaries directly into the bank accounts of workers.

"This will ensure that salaries are paid on time and cut down disputes," said MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang at an event for foreign workers yesterday.

Some 2,000 foreign workers sought help from MWC for salary disputes last year, up from fewer than 1,200 in 2012.

Pay disputes made up more than 60 per cent of the cases the group handled in both years.

But Mr Yeo, who is National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general, was quick to point out that the rise in cases does not necessarily mean that more firms are defaulting on salary payments.

"It could be that workers are more aware of their rights and came to the MWC for help," said the Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC.

There are more than 770,000 work permit holders in Singapore, excluding domestic maids.

The MWC is not the first to call for foreign workers to be paid electronically.

The NTUC lobbied for it unsuccessfully when the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, which regulates the hiring of foreign workers, was amended in September 2012.

The law currently requires employers to maintain monthly salary records of foreign workers.They also have to pay wages through bank transfers - if foreign workers request them.

The MWC does not have an estimate of how many firms or foreign workers are paid through Giro, said Mr Yeo.

Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said that firms and workers should have some flexibility over how salaries are paid.

"Some workers prefer cash which they can immediately remit home," he said.

"Also the banks may not be able to cope with a surge in foreign workers who need bank services," Mr Wee added.

Yesterday, the MWC held a May Day event for foreign workers with free movie screenings at cinemas, dormitories and the foreign workers recreation centre in Soon Lee Road.

It booked six halls at the Cathay Cineplex in Dhoby Ghaut to show The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Godzilla.

Ship painter Mani Iyyapnan, 31, who earns about $600 a month, came here from India nine years ago.

He had not seen a movie at a cinema for about four years. "It is expensive," he said.

Yesterday, he watched the Spider-Man film with two friends. "Should do more movie (screenings) on Sunday," he said.

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