A group of 200 disgruntled Bangladeshi workers went on a seven-hour sit-out on Monday morning in Singapore's largest residential area Tampines over a dispute involving unpaid salaries.
According to Yahoo! News Singapore, the workers from Sunway Concrete Pte Ltd and TechCom Construction gathered in an empty field at Tampines Industrial Street 62 instead of starting work at 10am (Bangladesh standard time).
Sunway is the main contractor and Techcom is the sub-contractor hired by Housing and Development Board (HDB) to fabricate building materials for flats.
The workers have not been paid for four months running, since November last year. Quoting some unnamed workers, it also said it is not the first time the company has fallen behind payments for its foreign workers.
In addition, the Bangladeshi workers also complained about the poor quality of food served in the canteen. One of them, Samid Siddek, 35, said even a cow would not want to eat the food.
Currently, about Singapore $150 is deducted each month from their salaries as food expenses, and another $20-50 for utilities, with 1 Singapore dollar equalling Tk 67.36.
The Bangladesh mission in Singapore, however, is unaware of the incident. "We have no idea. It's (such kind of protest) very unusual here. It's a regulated place. The government informs us if anything happens," Kamrul Ahsan, Bangladesh high commissioner in Singapore.
Expatriates' welfare and overseas employment secretary Zafar Ahmed Khan told bdnews24.com that they were yet to receive any information.
"We will tell the labour wing to monitor this," he said and added that never before had he heard of such incident in Singapore. "It's a very unusual event," he also said.
Nearly 0.2 million Bangladeshi are working and living in this Southeast Asian city-state, according to the secretary.
One protestor K Ravhkumar told Yahoo: "All men same problem, all men no pay for four months." The 35-year-old said his usual working hours are from 8am to 10pm.
However, he said that workers would be made to work until midnight on busy days, without overtime pay. An average worker earns a basic salary of $18 per day.
The strike slowly dissipated at about 3pm as workers were told by representatives of the company that they would receive their November pay on Monday and their December pay next Friday.
The report could not confirm when they will receive their salary for January.
A spokesman for Sunway, who declined to be named, claimed that the sit-out originated from a core group of about 10 Bangladeshi workers.
"A few of them took some weapons and threatened the others. Some don't know what is going on but just joined inâ€¦Majority of the workers do not dare to speak because they are scared they will get hamtum (beaten up)," he said.
TechCom officials declined to comment to Yahoo! Singapore, when contacted.
Jolovan Wham, a representative from the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics, told Yahoo that: "From my experience, workers usually resort to such actions when they are desperate and fed up. I believe they must have reached the tipping point for them to decide not to work."
A Singapore ministry of manpower spokesperson told Yahoo that its officers responded to the incident immediately after they were alerted by the police and went down to the worksite