Judge orders store to pay worker $6,500

This article is more than 12 months old

Migrant worker was paid less than what was promised in letter

A High Court judge has ruled that a migrant worker should be paid the basic salary stated in the in-principle approval (IPA) letter he received before coming to Singapore.

Justice Lee Seiu Kin said that without any other written agreement by both employer and employee, the letter was the document to follow.

He made this point in the written grounds for the decision he made against department store company Haniffa, who was ordered to pay $6,500 in owed salary and payment in-lieu of notice to China national Liu Huaixi.

Mr Liu, 43, had worked as a warehouse assistant and supermarket storekeeper at Haniffa from April 2014 to March last year.

The judge gave his order to Haniffa in February, and last Wednesday, the written grounds for his decision was released on the Supreme Court website.

Companies receive an IPA letter from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) after their work permit application is approved. They must send it to the foreign worker before he departs for Singapore.

Mr Liu's letter stated he would get a basic monthly salary of $1,100. Instead, he was given a basic salary of $680.

He appealed to the High Court after a claim he lodged with the Commissioner for Labour last year was dismissed.

Mr Melvin Chan, head of litigation and dispute resolution at TSMP Law Corporation - which represented Mr Liu pro bono - said the decision shows that without a written contract agreed on by both parties, the amount in the IPA letter is what the worker should get.

"It establishes a certain enforcible right for the worker," he added.

By law, an employer can reduce a worker's basic monthly salary to an amount lower than that stated in the letter only with the written consent of the worker. The employer then has to inform MOM's Controller of Work Passes in writing.

Mr Liu, who is now working as a driver at cement company Holcim, told The Straits Times yesterday he had received the $6,500 from Haniffa.

Haniffa's lawyer Mirza Mohamed Namazie said the two parties had reached an oral contract in which Mr Liu would be paid $1,300 a month: $680 in basic pay, $200 in housing allowance and the rest as overtime pay.

Justice Lee said that since there was no documented version of the contract, the only evidence was the IPA letter.

He said the letter is to ensure foreign workers are informed of their salary components in clear terms, and to place a greater part of the responsibility of hiring foreign workers on employers.

The decision was cheered by non-governmental organisations helping migrant workers. They often get cases of a large discrepancy between what a worker is promised before he migrates and what he is paid later, they said.

Mr John Gee, head of research at Transient Workers Count Too, said: "The IPA letter should be the new standard when there is no contract."


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