Adopting a case study approach, this paper examines unfree labour amongst labour migrants from a temporal perspective. I draw on the notion of temporality specifically to refer to the spontaneous and arbitrary imposition of strategies by employers as a response to situations in which workers attempt to bargain to ameliorate exploitation in the workplace or in response to workplace injuries. Although there is a significant literature discussing employer tactics to control and discipline workers, very little of this specifically addresses migrant workers or proceeds through a thick description of individual company strategies. I suggest that strategies to discipline migrant workers are often embedded in the broader migration regimes and state laws that underwrite migrant workers’ positions, and should be attributed equal weight in understanding how unfree labour is produced and maintained in practice. The case studies are taken from experiences of South Asian male migrant workers in four different small-medium enterprises (SMEs) that are subcontracting companies (sub-cons) in the construction and shipyard sectors in Singapore, and one man who suffered serious injury as a result of his work. Through these five case studies I hope to develop a characterization of migrant worker unfreedom that goes beyond descriptions of broad structural factors that discipline migrant workers, or characterisations of migrant worker conditions, to an examination of the micro-dynamics of workplace discipline. In this understanding I extend current conceptualisations of unfree labour by arguing that unfreedom must, in part, be understood as the inability to contest exploitation, including the strategies companies impose on workers at specific times to enable this.