week I wrote of short-sighted, greedy employers; bullying businessmen who,
in many cases, exploited their frontline workers, and often lowest-paid
workers including domestics, shop assistants, gym instructors, by either
paying them less than a minimum wage, and/or creaming off taxes,
insurances and benefits they were meant to be paying the State on their
seems to be the need for a central system to network all departments of
labour. Is it so difficult, for instance, to make it compulsory for new
businesses to bring evidence that their employees are registered for
required tax benefits and deductions before officially registering them?
This week, I sought the views of various government departments on the
issue and received a chequered response.
said new laws are taking care of law-breaking bosses. Others countered by
saying the problem is not so much surveillance systems, or the law - but
with the fact that for over 40 years, nobody has been jailed for tax
offences because the people at the “top”, and by that I understand
people with wealth and political influence, are the worst offenders.
are their views:
from the Ministry of Labour:
so long ago, banks fired women for being pregnant because it took them off
the job and they (banks) had to pay maternity benefits. You had a
situation where women were forced to provide sex to keep their jobs, in
various businesses throughout the country, where people were required to
sign for wages they didn’t get, and were fired if they reported it.
the amended Minimum Wages Act came into effect, one of the biggest
offenders was the private security companies who made workers work long
hours for a pittance.
they were doing was heinous. Exploited employees had little recourse in
the civil courts.
under the brand-new Maternity Act and Amendments to the Minimum Wage Act,
the law is very strict. Exploited employees, be they domestic workers,
pregnant workers, underpaid workers who are paid less than $7 an hour, can
go straight to the Industrial Court through the Ministry of Labour and get
a hearing, whether or not he or she is member of a union.”
Ned, Assistant Commissioner of Collections:
is widespread abuse with taxes. On paper, the law is strict. Employers who
swindle their employees by illegally creaming their taxes can be jailed
and fined up to 300 per cent of the amount they owe government. In
practice, it has never happened because the law isn’t enforced.
know for example, of people who are exploited and have to put up with
terrible conditions working with a large garment producer but because they
are poor, the employers have them at their mercy.
employers deduct funds for National Insurance and PAYE, but don’t remit
it. Many employees who assume their NIS is being paid, are shocked when
they come to us for refunds for health expenses after they have been sick.
don’t know you. We have no refunds for you because your employer has
never paid NIS on your behalf.
employees want to file tax returns and ask for the TD4s, they get the
have been promised the computerisation of our systems for two years now.
It will allow us, with the use of a centrally-run system, to link all
offices, keep tabs on current employers and beef up our surveillance
system. But now, because of lack of funds, it looks like it won’t happen
till next year. Until that happens, little will change.
Complaints Unit takes reports of non-compliance. We send in an officer to
investigate. We don’t need to know the identity of the worker, since it
may cost him his job.
the employer is guilty, we give him time to comply with the law, and
impose fines, but the penalty of imprisonment has never been used. If you,
as an employee, suspect non-compliance on the part of your employer, call
Mr Michael Mark, in the field unit on 625-0895.”
A Marcelle, Legal Counsel, Ministry of Labour:
the past three years I have been working with a team in the Ministry of
Labour, Manpower Development and Industrial Relations to develop law to
deal with the subject matter of your article.
draft Bill has been tabled in Parliament and is currently being discussed
at the level of the Standing Tripartite Committee on Labour Matters.
am pleased that you raised those issues. Generally, those issues have not
received the support of employers.”
Thomas, Board of Inland Revenue:
only system we have so far are the field officers, who are authorised to
audit employers, but they can’t keep tabs on every single business in
know there is non-compliance, but have no statistics. What is needed now,
clearly, is to enforce the law.
need the political will to stop the exploitation of the most vulnerable
among us, no matter how powerful, wealthy, or well-connected the offender
- even if it means making history with a jail sentence.”
week: A look at the proposed Basic Conditions of Work and Minimum Wages