Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Watz Buzzing - 19 Dec 2012

20 Indian and Chinese construction workers went on strike at Yishun site over non-payment of salaries, MOM's refusal to help

Yahoo! News Singapore, 18 Dec 2012
Some Indian construction workers in Yishun stopped working on Tuesday, joining colleagues from China who put down their tools a month ago to demand payment of their salaries.
Together there are about 20 workers of Sime Chong Construction Pte Ltd. who are refusing to work.
Four of the 20-odd workers have decided to speak up. Each of them is owed a range of between S$2,400 to S$5,600 in salaries.
The men say they have been told by their employer that the company has no money and thus could not pay them. "But the construction project is still carrying on," one of the men says, pointing to the ongoing construction of some HDB flats in Yishun where they are located, and which the company is involved in.
They say they have also approached the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for help but to no avail so far. "The Manpower Ministry says if the company doesn't want to pay us, there is nothing it can do," one of the workers says. The rest nodded their heads in agreement.  Full story

Related:
  1. Tan Chuan-Jin: Foreign workers facing employment issues should approach MOM for help - Channel News Asia
  2. OPINION: ‘Proper channels’ for workers aren’t adequate - Yahoo! News Singapore
  3. OPINION: Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin should be ashamed of his lazy ministry
  4. Singapore must stop ill-treating migrant workers - China Daily 
  5. MOM staff, getting too comfy in their Herman Miller chairs, took more than one full year to investigate and resolve a simple wage dispute 
  6. Designer chairs for MOM staff - Asiasone.com 
  7. Construction workers claim they are owed pay, not working - inSing.com


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Construction workers seek help to retrieve their pay but from whom?

A construction worker from the Sime Chong Construction Pte Ltd spoke with us on the predicament that he and his fellow workers are faced with. They were not paid for their work by their company. Its been close to a month since they stopped work at the company.

They had their salaries of 2-3 months owned by their employers for a period of about 3 months. The difference between the amount owing is due to the different worksite and overtime of each worker. The workers had sought assistance from Ministry of Manpower (MOM) but was asked to wait, as MOM could not do much since the owner of the company which they are working in said that the company replied saying that they do not have money to pay them.

MOM canceled their work permit on the 30th November 2012 after the workers replied "No" on whether they would wish to continue working with the company

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Foreign construction workers in Yishun demand pay, refuse to work



The Chinese and Indian men are desperate. They have not been paid for the last two to three months. After a period of protracted and unsuccessful attempts to get their employer to pay them their salaries, the Chinese men finally decided to down tools about a month ago. The Indian workers did so Tuesday, 18 December. Together there are about 40 workers or so who are refusing to start work.

They are the workers of Sime Chong Construction Pte Ltd. The Chinese workers have been working in Singapore for some four to five years, and this is the first time that they have taken things into their own hands. The men say they have been told by their employer that the company has no money and thus could not pay them. "But the construction project is still carrying on," one of the men says, pointing to the ongoing construction of some HDB flats in Yishun where they are located, and which the company is involved in.

Four of the 20-odd Chinese men have decided to speak up. Each of them is owed a range of between S$2,400 to S$5,600 in salaries.

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Singaporeans; Please Take Note

With Minister of Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin and the Singapore government calling the labour protest of over 180 SMRT bus drivers an "illegal strike", perhaps it is time for Singaporeans to consider new, alternate ways to protest.

Basically, any other ways to protest except to go on strike (unless you want to be hurl up in court in which case please ignore this post).

Now if some of you are wondering what other ways are there to protest without striking, I am pleased to say the cabin crews of Cathay Pacific Airways has gave us a fine example on how to do it. The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union is currently in a pay dispute with airline executives and is encouraging flight attendants to hit the airline's reputation for excellent service by...refusing to smile!

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Principle of equal pay for equal work 

I would like to thank everyone for commenting on this posting. Many cited examples of when people would be paid more for the same work because they have experience or better qualification. When you apply a principle, you stick to it as strongly as possible and every exception you make you need to think hard about the justification. You starting point is "equal pay for equal work" ...now suppose you decide a driver should be paid more because of his years of good service with the company - it is perhaps a justifiable exception as it is attainable by other drivers.

Suppose the ability to speak English is important and it was argued that PRC drivers are generally not good at English  so they were paid lower- you ought to be able to transparently state that drivers who have "English qualifications" are paid extra. This, however, was not the case. The drivers were discriminated against purely based on nationality.

 You notice in the experiment, they researcher explicitly stated that the 2 monkeys knew each other - the angry monkey couldn't find any acceptable justification for his "unfair treatment". ...that was the source of the problem.

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How serious is the problem of fake degrees?

There are more than half a million PRs in the island plus many that have taken up citizenship. Assuming half of the PRs are FTs, ie professionals that are the equivalent of our PMETs, it means that there are easily 250k of them working here.

There have been complaints or rumours that are many FTs are here on fake degrees, unqualified or half qualified. There is no official statistics so far on the size of this problem and no one really knows how serious is this problem. What are the implications to the country if 10% of the FT qualifications are fakes?

This does not take into account that many came from educational institutions where the quality/standard of education is sub par or even suspect.

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Helping desperate workers

I refer to the report “Minister Tan: I do recognize the relationship tends to be weighted against workers” (TR Emeritus, Dec 6).

No salary arrears?
It states that “In this crane incident, I was initially concerned that the two workers (Mr Zhu Guilei and Mr Wu Xiaolin) were not properly paid. As it turned out, they did not have any salary arrears.”

Salary dispute settled on the spot?
In contrast, the article “Salaries not owed to workers who protested atop construction cranes: MOM” (Todayonline, Dec 7) said that “MOM’s checks have shown the two workers (Mr Zhu Gulei and Mr Wu Xiaolin) did not have any salary arrears.

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Singaporean Accounting at Its Best

As I have written about the discrepancy between inflows into Singaporean public assets, reported earnings, and then the amount they claim as assets under management, the question of how to reconcile these divergent numbers arises.  There are numerous reasons for the difference between earnings, inflows, and assets under management but a recent case exemplifies the difference perfectly.

Singapore Airlines recently sold its 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic to Delta Airlines.  A summary article of the deal from Bloomberg News reports the following:

Delta will buy the 49 percent shareholding for $360 million, according to a stock exchange filling late yesterday. Singapore Air will book an S$322 million ($264 million) gain from the sale, after accounting for a writedown in its investment in the U.K. carrier controlled by billionaire Richard Branson…Singapore Air bought the stake for S$1.65 billion, Germaine Shen, a spokeswoman, said by e-mail.”

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The Conversation isn’t getting very far

I dragged myself, Saturday morning, to a session of the Singapore Conversation, my thoughts swinging between This is stupid, I’ll be wasting my time and I should at least see what one is like.

It was a Stage 2 event, meaning that it was to build upon the conversations of the previous month or two. From those sessions, the organisers had distilled the sentiments expressed into the following themes, and a introductory paper was passed around stating them:
I would like to see a Singapore . . .
  • With more kampong spirit
  • With strong families
  • Where life feels more fulfilling
  • With a strong Singaporean core
  • That is affordable
  • With many definitions of success
  • Where we can grow old with dignity
  • Where we take better care of the less fortunate
  • Where government does less and society does more


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