Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Friday November 1st 2019

Singaporean made to pay $70,000 bond after failing aircraft engineering course with SIA EC

Dear Gilbert,

I am Ms Tan, wife of Mr Ho and I am writing because I have found a waiver appeal letter you wrote previously to Mr Heng Swee Kiat to help Mr Zulkifli and his daughter who was made to pay her bond of $76,000 after MOE failed her practicum.

We are now facing similar problems with my husband’s ex-employer, SIA EC.

He signed a 4-year Licenced Aircraft Engineer training course that came with a 9-year bond after he graduated from NTU. He was paid $2500 nett and was not given any staff welfare or bonus by the company. Throughout his training, he has to complete many different courses, pass tests by CAAS and also clock hours on practical groundwork. He was even on shift work on this payscale. For all the test papers they take with CAAS, they will have to fork out money from their own pocket to pass the paper and each paper costs about $80 and there are a total of more than 100 papers to pass. It was stated in the employment contract that their service will be suspended or terminated if they fail any of the mandatory papers.

My husband is ready to clear all the CAAS papers because the 4th year of training is mostly practical groundwork training. He took the last paper and received a call from CAAS that it was a fail. My husband decided to take the paper again since they are given 3 chances to pass the same paper. His instructors helped him and he did all the past year papers. When he was confident enough, he went for the paper again. This time round, he received a call that it was a pass. The next day, CAAS came back to him and told him that they made a mistake.They revoked the pass and told him that he failed the paper. There were no explanation to why there was such a mistake. My husband sought help from his instructors and his instructors were puzzled why he didn’t pass too when all his answers were up to 75% accuracy.

When considering to do the paper again, my husband was hesitant and started doubting his own ability. He has worked very hard for this paper. And even when his instructors were confident he can do well, he wasn’t sure if CAAS will fail his paper again. At this point, he was called into the office. On a private conversation, he was offered two choices. His manager Mr Seah told him that if he was thinking about taking the paper again, he may face the risk of failing the paper and breaching the employment contract resulting in him having to pay the bond. The other option open was he can tender his resignation before he take the paper again and he will be waived off all penalties. Unfortunately, there was no hard copy record of the conversation.

Evaluating the two option, my husband decided to trust the words of his manager Mr Seah and chose the latter. Reason being, he was insecure about how CAAS is working since they can issue a pass but revoke it later. There was no way to get CAAS to reveal the paper nor to check the answers to ensure that you actually made the mark. CAAS has the full rights to deny him of a pass without having to explain themselves. And my husband trusted the words of his manager that his penalty will be waived.

He tendered his resignation and was asked to leave immediately even though he was looking at serving a month’s notice which was stated in the employment contract. I do not know if this can be considered as the company terminating his contract or that he was the one who resigned. Suddenly out of job, he was desperate because his dream of 19 years shattered because of one CAAS paper and an option to leave the company so that he can be freed from paying the penalty.

He subsequently received a letter from SIA EC, asking for a repayment in liquidated damage of over $70,000. When frantically seeking help from, Mr Seah, his ex-manager who told him he was free from penalty, his ex-manager turned a blind eye. He didn’t want to respond to the verbal promise he made and turn words against my husband. We were left to handle the case on our own.

I found your appeal letter online and tried to draft a letter of appeal to help him, hoping that out of compassion, the company will waive off the bond penalty. We sent in a registered mail and it was ignored. The case was forwarded to a credit control company. We forwarded the appeal letter to the credit control company but was denied the waiver. It is now proposed that my husband repay the debt by installment of $500 per month.

We have chosen to write to you first as we think our case is very similar to the case that you have helped Mr Zulkifli with and would like to hear some comments from you. Our other option is to seek legal advise if we are able to get a waive because my husband’s decision was based on a verbal promise made by his manager. He was asked to leave because he was failed by CAAS without actual proper explanation to why his pass for the paper was revoked. Everyone else in the batch passed the paper and even his instructors were shocked at why he failed because they can vouch for the accuracy of his answers.

We would really appreciate if you can help us draft an appeal letter to SIA EC too and we will forward it to them so that they can reconsider the case.

This episode happened when we were committing ourselves financially to a new house and a marriage. The amount that SIA EC is asking for is also ridiculous when talking about employing a degree holder at $2500 nett per month and not offering them any bonus or welfare. It was much worse when he has to pay for their own test papers, do shift work and work on public holidays without any extra allowances. My husband has been holding a very good record when he was under employment. Yet, for this to happen to him is shocking and unreasonable.

We look forward to your reply and would consider alternative views provided to try and solve this case. Thank you for your time.

Ms Tan

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