The workers had been found by a local court to have provided forged certificates to obtain work passes to work for T Y Enterprise and Sun Blues Cleaning Maintenance.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that while another 10 workers from China will be charged with similar offences on Thursday, another nine are being repatriated after being served with warning letters “for providing false information to MOM’s employment inspectors”.
Arriving in Singapore early last year, the 37 Chinese nationals in all had applied for employment and S passes with “university degrees” in hotel management from Jiangsu, Shandong and Henan universities.
While the workers knew their degrees were fake and had lied in their applications for employment passes, they claimed they had little choice after having paid S$8,000 each to agents in China to land a job here.
However, the promise of a high-paying job was dashed after they found themselves scrubbing floors and clearing rubbish. It is understood that some of them were farmers back home and had landed jobs as cleaning supervisors.
The three universities mentioned do not offer a degree in hotel management and that the degrees were fake, The New Paper reported.
One of the workers, Liu Demin, 36, had pleaded to the court for leniency when his case was heard on Tuesday, saying that he had paid a substantial amount to the agent.
Speaking to the court interpreter in Mandarin, he said, “If I did not follow his instructions (about the forged degree certificate), I would not get the money back. I have to support sickly parents and two school-going children.”
In June this year, the same paper had reported that Liu and another worker, Wang Kangxun, 31, had complained about the unusual pay practice adopted by their company.
It was this issue which shed light to the fake degree scam.
The workers were each paid a monthly salary of S$2,650 which was transferred into their bank accounts, but after payday, they each had to return around S$1,600 to a man sent by their employer. They claimed not to have known why there were asked to do that.
For an S pass holder, the worker must have a fixed monthly salary of at least $2,000, and at least a degree or diploma while the minimum salary for Employment Pass holders is $2,800.
While such scams are not new, non-governmental group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) said this is the largest case of employers using workers with fake certificates. Its spokesman alleged that the employers use the scam to get around the dependency ceiling imposed by MOM.
For making false declaration in a work pass application, the Chinese nationals could have been fined up to $15,000 and/or sentenced up to 12 months’ jail.