Photo from Straits Times Lau Fook Kong

The Singapore Ministry of Manpower made an astounding claim today (Jan 19) declaring that the government cannot force employers to pay salaries. The press statement comes after a Bangladeshi worker in Singapore successfully won his case in the Labour Court where he was owed S$7,363 in unpaid wages. His employer did not meet the payment deadline last Thursday and the Manpower Ministry (MOM) said that the government is helpless.

Pushing the responsibility away, the MOM instead advised the foreign worker to apply to the State Courts to take actions against his employer. MOM also revealed that they received about 4,500 complaints of foreign workers not receiving wages every year, but dismissed such cases as minority and “only 0.4% of the foreign workforce”.

The MOM also said that employers who do not pay up wages will be debarred from hiring foreign workers, but the ban can be lifted once they clear the debt. There is no penalty.

MOM also blame workers for having unrealistic expectations:

“Workers should have a realistic expectation of what could be recovered from a company which has ceased operations. The likelihood of salary recovery would have been higher if the worker had come forward earlier instead of allowing the sum owed to accumulate and the firm to rack up higher debts to other creditors.”

The current Manpower Minister is Lim Swee Say, and he is avoiding media responses to the case as this negatively impacts his reputation.