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Bangladesh boss in Singapore ordered to pay over S$13,000 to a cook for unpaid and overtime wages

The Employment Claims Tribunal of Singapore recently ordered a central kitchen operator, to pay over S$13,000 in unpaid salary and overtime wages to a cook.

As shared by TWC2, the employer allegedly asked the worker to sign blank pay slips, later altering them to suggest that the worker agreed to a S$2500 loan, a claim the worker disputes.

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SINGAPORE: Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a non-profit organization advocating for fair treatment of migrant workers in Singapore, recently celebrated a significant victory where justice prevailed for a migrant worker.

The Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT) ordered Obayed Holdings Pte Ltd, a central kitchen operator, to pay the worker who worked as a cook for over S$13,000 (approximately US$9,703) in unpaid salary and overtime wages.

According to TWC2’s finding from official filings, Obayed Holdings Pte Ltd is 50 per cent owned by Obaidur Rahman, a Bangladeshi national.

The employer allegedly asked the worker to sign blank pay slips, later altering them to suggest that the worker agreed to a S$2500 loan, a claim the worker disputes.

TWC2 also raised their concerns over the quality standards at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) when they handle salary disputes in the case.

In a recent article published on TWC2’s official website, the organization delved into the incident’s background, chronicling the uphill battle of Nazmul Md, a Bangladeshi cook, in reclaiming his unpaid salary from his former employer.

Overtime, unpaid and unauthorized work for six week

In November 2022, Nazmul received an In-principle-Approval (IPA) from the MOM in November 2022 for a Training Employment Pass.

The IPA, based on declarations by the employer outlined his occupation as a cook with a salary comprising S$2,800 in Basic Monthly Salary and a S$200 Fixed Monthly Allowance.

This meant that he was entitled to a fixed monthly salary of S$3,000, before overtime pay.

Since 14 January 2023, Nazmul began working busily at a food stall situated in a dormitory housing approximately 13,000 residents. His daily routine comprised arduous shifts lasting 12.5 hours, seven days a week.

His work schedule was demanding, commencing at 11:30 pm and continuing through the night until 5:30 am the following day. Subsequently, his workday resumed at 11:00 am, extending until 5:30 pm.

However, unbeknownst to Nazmul, he was not authorized to commence work until the MOM had officially issued him his Training Employment Pass.

Obayed Holdings, his employer, failed to register for the necessary work pass until February 28, 2023.

Consequently, Nazmul found himself in a precarious situation, susceptible to allegations of illegal employment during the six-week period from January 14 to March 1, 2023.

And Nazmul even didn’t receive any compensation from the boss for the six weeks.

During this period, Nazmul received no compensation from his employer for his efforts.

The cook asked to sign blank pay slips

The only remuneration he obtained was in the form of two cash payments, each amounting to $1,200. These payments were purportedly for March and April salaries, with one received in April and the other in May.

Nazmul also reportedly asked to sign three blank pay slips. This request was repeated in May, where he was once again asked to sign an additional three blank pay slips, which, upon inspection, contained only his signature and an incorrect date, lacking any other pertinent information.

Not having been properly paid ever since the beginning, Nazmul stopped working for Obayed Holdings on the 18th or 19th of May.

He then went to make a complaint at MOM and TADM.

On 23 May, Nazmul confronted Obaidur Rahman, the boss, at the company’s offices.

Nazmul recorded approximately 35 minutes of their conversation in Bengali using his mobile phone.

In the recorded conversation, Nazmul expressed his intent to resign from his job and criticized the company for coercing its employees into signing blank papers.

Rather than addressing or refuting Nazmul’s concerns, Obaidur chose to shift the conversation to another topic in his subsequent response.

Later investigations conducted by TWC2 revealed through official filings that Obaidur Rahman, a Bangladeshi national, held a 50 per cent stake in the company.

The remaining shares were owned by a Singaporean named Chew Lai Yee, likely functioning as a silent partner within the company’s ownership structure.

TADM allegedly miscalculated Nazmul’s pay

While Nazmul initiated his complaint to MOM and TADM, upon reviewing Nazmul’s claim calculations as of 26 May 2023, prepared by TADM, TWC2 identified significant miscalculations.

One major issue was that TADM incorrectly categorized all of Nazmul’s extra working hours beyond his regular hours as overtime pay, calculating them at a rate of 1.5 times his basic pay.

However, TWC2 pointed out that according to the Employment Act, working on Sundays and public holidays at the employer’s request entitles the worker to different rates of pay than regular overtime.

Additionally, there was an error in recording Nazmul’s cash payments. While he received two payments of $1,200 each (purportedly for March and April), TADM only recorded the first payment, omitting the second.

TWC2 emphasized that overestimating a claim can be detrimental to a worker’s case at the Tribunal.

” If the employer can prove that the over-estimated amount is false, it can damage the credibility of the worker, and that damaged credibility can cascade onto other line items.”

TADM mediator allegedly told Nazmul that verbal agreement “is also a valid contract”

TWC2 further raised another concerning issue regarding the standards upheld at TADM.

The employer claimed that Nazmul agreed to work twelve hours a day without entitlement to overtime pay.

TADM then messaged Nazmul via WhatsApp to verify this claim. Nazmul denied the existence of any official contract between him and the employer.

Shockingly, the mediator suggested to Nazmul that a verbal agreement to work twelve hours a day without receiving overtime pay was deemed valid and enforceable.

“No, it is not,” TWC2 vehemently denounced it.  “It is trite law that any purported private contract in violation of statutory law cannot be valid. ”

The Employment Act is abundantly clear that hours in excess of 44 per week (let alone Sundays and public holidays) have to be paid at least the minimum overtime rate of 1.5 times the basic rate of pay.

TWC2 raised concerns that such misleading remarks from TADM officers could potentially misguide workers like Nazmul, who might not be well-versed in statutory law.

Case heard on 8 November

Following the unsuccessful mediation where no settlement was achieved, TADM escalated the case by issuing a Claim Referral Certificate, taking the matter to the Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT).

The claim submitted by TADM on behalf of Nazmul amounted to S$16,729.48.

The Tribunal hearing occurred on 8 November conducted online, requiring Nazmul to appear via video link.

“If not for TWC2, he would have had no idea how to set up a video link; this too is another issue about digitisation and access to justice.”

Several crucial elements came to light in Nazmul’s defense against his employer’s claims. Regarding the basic pay, Nazmul meticulously argued for the owed amounts, specifically $1,800 each for March and April.

“Nazmul only pressed his claim for the lower amount of $1,800 for April. TWC2 had counselled Nazmul to be scrupulously honest in his arguments before the Tribunal.”

For the partial month of May, TADM’s calculation of $2,192.22 as Nazmul’s owed salary before overtime pay was disputed. Nazmul, adhering strictly to accuracy, pressed for $1,920, a figure supported by his own detailed calculations.

Nazmul challenges alleged loan evidence as falsified

With respect to the salary for March, the employer submitted into evidence a cash advance voucher, dated 3 March 2023, attempting to show that Nazmul had taken a loan of S$2,500.

Nazmul contested their authenticity. He convincingly argued that the signatures on these vouchers were identical to those on the blank vouchers he had signed earlier, suggesting falsification by the employer.

In addressing the issue of overtime pay, the employer admitted non-payment but asserted that Nazmul had not worked overtime hours.

They submitted time cards allegedly depicting Nazmul’s working hours, stating he worked minimal hours per week.

However, Nazmul had never seen these time cards before and found the timings inconsistent with his actual work schedule, which involved significantly longer hours, especially on weekends and public holidays when the stall was busiest.

Nazmul effectively challenged the employer’s assertion by pointing out that as the sole cook in a seven-day-a-week operation, the claim that he worked only a minimal number of hours was implausible.

The employer ordered to pay Nazmul S$13,677

Following the case hearing, the Tribunal issued its verdict, The employer was ordered to pay Nazmul the following owed amounts:

Salary for March 2023: S$1,800.00
Salary for April 2023: S$1,800.00
Salary for the partial month of May 2023: S$1,750.00

Overtime pay for March and April: S$6,653.06
Overtime pay for May 2023: S$1,674.28

Total: S$13,677.34

Despite the ordered amount being approximately $3,000 less than the total stated in the Claim Referral Certificate, TWC2 said Nazmul received nearly all that he had sought.

“And yet, happy though Nazmul was, the outcome cannot be said to be truly fair to him, “noted TWC2.

“TADM had completely omitted a line item for Sunday and public holiday pay, and once it was omitted, it was outside the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to consider it. ”

Additionally, Nazmul suffered due to the employer’s deliberate delay in registering him for his Training Employment Pass.

The six-week period during which he worked without a work pass created uncertainty regarding his eligibility to claim his salary for that duration.

TWC2 estimated that those six weeks would have been worth about S$8,000 in basic and overtime pay.

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bangla enslave other bangla? inb4 pappies say sinkies commit the most crimes anyway.
and yes it’s unfair. if gonna throw book at employer, then should force him to pay the cook 3000 dollars a month minimum, whether there was OT or not.

also i thought we were “standard” 5 day work week already? why still count 44 hrs as a standard week’s of work? should 40 right? or did MOM/pappies change law while i wasn’t looking again?

“… TWC2 also raised their concerns over the quality standards at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) when they handle salary disputes in the case…… TWC2 further raised another concerning issue regarding the standards upheld at TADM…”

I wouldn’t be suprised for any links between the silent partner, TADM and MOM.

like singapore boss also la… can take advanage la

What is the fish- monger Minister, in MOM doing.
Taking salary & letting NGO’s do the work. Nice

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