13 April 2015, The Straights Times/Singapore
THE practice has been outlawed and many have been caught, but some employers here are still collecting kickbacks from foreign workers, said migrant worker groups, employment agencies and workers.
These extortions can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands, with some employers demanding upfront cash payments from workers to hire them, while others are forcing workers to pay when their work permits need to be renewed.
Worker groups said kickbacks take place across different industries, including the construction, marine and service sectors.
Ms Debbie Fordyce, executive committee member of workers’ rights group Transient Workers Count Too, said some workers pay as much as $10,000 just for a chance to work here.
“Why should it cost that much? That is the question. We don’t know where the money is going, and it’s really hard to prove,” she said.
Mr David Leong, managing director of recruitment firm PeopleWorldwide, agreed, saying “the pervasiveness of this practice is actually quite deep”.
Mr Leong, who also recruits foreign workers for firms here, said recruiting agencies, both overseas and in Singapore, often collect kickbacks on behalf of employers in order to better compete for their business.
“Some employers ask us to do this but we turn them down.”
But he conceded that fewer employers are doing so now, after such kickbacks were outlawed in 2008.
Last week, the managing director of a construction company was jailed for three weeks and fined $169,000 for receiving more than $85,000 in kickbacks from 24 foreign workers and assaulting a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) officer.