Singapore

15% of foreign workers didn’t get IPA letters

MOM survey shows jump in number of firms that failed to give out in-principle approval letters

More foreign workers arrived here not knowing what their terms of employment, including their salary, are - a situation that makes them more vulnerable to exploitation.

A survey last year commissioned by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) found that 15.4 per cent of non-Malaysian work permit holders said they did not receive their in-principle approval (IPA) letter before arriving in Singapore.

This is up from 4 per cent in 2014, the last time a similar survey was conducted.

About 2,500 work permit holders and 500 S Pass holders were polled randomly.

Under the law, employers are required to mail the IPA letter to the worker after his work permit application is approved, before he leaves for Singapore. The letter contains the terms and conditions of his employment, including the basic salary.

It serves as a de-facto contract, in the absence of any other written agreement. Employers who omit this step may be fined up to $10,000.

On why there has been a jump in recalcitrant employers, Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said some may not be aware of the rule.

"We need to continue to urge employers to provide the IPA to their workers," said Mr Yeo, speaking on the sidelines of an NTUC May Day event to celebrate migrant workers, where MWC announced the operation of its first recreation club at 51 Soon Lee Road.

He urged foreign workers who encounter issues with their IPA letters, particularly salary disputes, to report their problems early.

However, Transient Workers Count Too general manager Ethan Guo said that during salary disputes, employers often hold the upper hand as work permits are "directly tied" to them.

He added: "Workers who make a complaint to MOM will face premature termination of their jobs, which will leave them vulnerable and potentially be sent home before managing to recover the debts they incurred in taking loans to work here.

"These days, workers with salary disputes are almost automatically allowed a change of employer. However, the success rate of finding new employment in Singapore is very low."

The MOM survey, which was conducted by market research company Blackbox Research, held some good news though. It found that foreign workers in Singapore are generally satisfied with their working conditions and would recommend the country as a place to work to their friends and relatives.

When asked for their overall assessment, 86.3 per cent of work pass holders and 87.5 per cent of S Pass holders said they were satisfied working in Singapore, similar to in 2014.

Employment