Training Singapore’s Indonesian Family Network on civil claims for migrant workers

Caseworkers from the Indonesia Family Network (IFN), a subsidiary of Transient Workers Count Too (“TWC2”), assist domestic workers who run into problems during their employment in Singapore. Many are domestic workers themselves, and with many years of experience in worker support.

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JWB’s Executive Director Douglas MacLean and the heads of JWB’s Singapore and Indonesia offices Ms Tammie Koh and Ms Sri Aryani shared how caseworkers can identify claims for civil compensation, and the necessary evidence to support such claims. Mr. Wilbur Lim, Managing Director of WMH Law Corporation, also shared his experiences on migrant worker litigation. Mr. Lim emphasised the importance of evidence and how it can make or break a case.

For victims of violence, the training advised first seeing a doctor or making a police report as soon as possible. They noted that full and frank disclosure is critical to ensure that the records paint a complete picture of what happened. In the event that the victim cannot seek medical or police assistance, she should take proactive steps to obtain relevant evidence, such as taking photographs of any injuries.

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Mr. Wilbur Lim discusses how even text messages can be helpful evidence

Abuse cases aside, a domestic worker should also keep a record of salary payments, as well as her interactions or conversations with the employer that are related to these payments. These records can take multiple forms, such as bank statements, text messages, photographs of documents, or even diary records. In the event of wage disputes, these documents serve as important evidence.

JWB recognises that domestic workers often come to the caseworkers empty-handed – with no proper documentation or records. The domestic workers’ activity may also face difficulty obtaining relevant evidence, due to restrictions on their activity. Nonetheless, even thin evidence can help lawyers enter negotiations, and put pressure on those who have harmed their client.

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Witness statements can often give critical support to a client’s claim. However, IFN’s caseworkers expressed concern that some employers are against their domestic workers acting as witnesses for their peers. In response, Mr. Lim and Mr. MacLean emphasised the flexibility of pro bono lawyers in working out  solutions that would address the witnesses’ concerns while still enabling them to speak to what they saw.

Another concern was the possibility of an employer facing bankruptcy. The caseworkers were introduced to the recent JWB success story of Rita*. Through working with our partners and pro bono lawyers, Rita was made an official creditor against her bankrupt employer.

*See http://www.forjusticewithoutborders.org/victory-for-rita/ for more information.

Finally, Ms. Koh and Ms. Aryani introduced the process for referring cases to JWB, including assessment criteria and relevant procedures. In 2018, we will continue to work with IFN and support their clients in seeking just compensation, even after returning home.

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We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Mr. Wilbur Lim for joining us and sharing his invaluable experience with the participants. We would also like to thank IFN for inviting us to partner with them in their work.