“Good morning Bhaiya (brother in Hindi). How are you today?” That’s my routine greeting to the
Bangladeshi cleaner at my block on my way to work.
He joyfully returns a greeting in his own brand of English, which is enough for me to understand.
He’s amongst thousands of migrant workers who are helping to build our homes, office buildings,
hospitals, infrastructure and keeping our surroundings clean and green.
To help look after their needs and deal with their concerns, the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) has
been hard at work over the years. MWC was set up in 2009 and is a bipartite initiative of NTUC and
the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).
MWC operates from a shophouse along Serangoon Road, but its tentacles find their reach to every
nook and corner of Singapore to take care of the needs of migrant workers. As at June last year,
there were some 1.1 million foreign workers in Singapore.
Slew of Services and Activities
MWC-POSB ATM/Membership Card: MWC’s most recent initiative was the launch of the MWC-POSB ATM/Membership card which gives employers the opportunity to pay foreign workers’ salaries electronically.
The process also allows foreign workers to send money home to their loved ones with less hassles.
The first lot of migrant workers to benefit will be those arriving to work in Singapore from 1 April
Those already working here can take part in the membership programme and enjoy the benefits
from around September 2018.
Several companies are also on board the membership programme. Some familiar names include
Western Union, StarHub and Mustafa Air Travel. NTUC Income is also providing an affordable
insurance programme for migrant workers.
Help Kiosk: Did you know MWC operates a help kiosk every Wednesday at the Woodlands,
Terusan, Penjuru, Soon Lee and Kaki Bukit migrant workers recreation centres from 7pm to 9pm?
These recreation centres are within the dormitory compounds, where migrant workers can get help
on employment issues. These can range from general queries about employment matters to advice on settling salary disputes.
Legal Advice: The free legal clinic helps migrant workers get basic legal advice and information. It’s a
joint initiative by the Law Society of Singapore’s Pro Bono Services Office and MWC. It runs on the 1st
and 3rd Saturday of every month. The service is open to all work permit and S Pass holders, with the
sessions held at MWC’s Serangoon Road premises.
Service Learning Programme: There is also a two- to three-day service learning programme where
students interact with migrant workers. They also get to learn about real life case studies which
MWC has handled. Those who are keen to join can email MWC at email@example.com
MWC Volunteers: Keen to be a volunteer with MWC, then why not sign up with the MWC Kakis
Programme? You can choose the area you want to volunteer in – examples include manning the help
kiosk or taking part in the many outreach programmes and roadshows during the weekends at the
migrant worker recreation centres. To find out more about volunteering activities with MWC, visit:
MWC Ambassadors: Made up of migrant workers, these ambassadors spread the message about
MWC’s work. There are nearly 2100 ambassadors currently and the target is to reach 5000 by 2020.
Ambassadors often flag cases of unpaid salaries to MWC for the latter to take action to help recover
the monies from employers. Several ambassadors have also been trained under the SGSecure
Programme and are now conducting sessions on emergency preparedness for their colleagues.
Geylang Food Project: Migrant workers who have no choice but to remain in Singapore due to
work injury claims or employment disputes or who have been abandoned by their employer need
not worry about having to go hungry, thanks to the Geylang Food Project.
This is a joint effort by MWC and HealthServe. They provide meals for migrant workers during lunch and dinner at two locations in the Geylang area. All the affected worker needs to do is register at any of the locations to enjoy their free meal for as long as he needs the service.
Come Makan With Me: Just like us, migrant workers too crave for home-cooked food. In December
2017, MWC started the “Come Makan With Me” initiative. Local families invite migrant workers into
their homes for a healthy home-cooked meal, giving all a chance to talk and get to know each
other’s home countries better. For the future, MWC plans to publicise this effort on its social media
channels and Singaporeans keen to host can contact MWC.
FREIDA: In this case, this isn’t the name of a woman but a mobile vehicle that moves around
different parts of Singapore where migrant workers congregate in large numbers. The vehicle travels
to open worksites on weekdays during noon to engage migrant workers during their lunch break. It’s
a typical help kiosk but on wheels. In 2017, MWC managed to reach out to nearly 25,000 and
handled 1000 cases brought up by the workers. A second vehicle, FREIDA 2, is in the pipeline and
with that, MWC hopes to double its reach this year.
Sports: No prizes for which is the most popular sport amongst migrant workers, particular those
coming from the Indian sub-continent? Cricket of course! MWC has been organising friendly cricket
competitions amongst groups of migrant workers at various sites. Another popular sport is
“Kabbadi”, a form of team wrestling.
Migrant Workers’ Assistance Fund: MWC has always been at the forefront to swing into
action when a migrant worker is a victim of a workplace accident. For this, there is the Migrant
Workers’ Assistance Fund (MWAF). It was jointly set-up in May 2012 by SNEF and NTUC to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to distressed migrant workers, or their next-of-kin in the event of a tragic death.
Improving Living Conditions: MWC has also held steady on its resolve to get tough on those who
mistreat migrant workers. I have joined MWC officers on their inspections and raids of premises
which house migrant workers after it received tip offs of over-crowding and poor housing conditions.
The affected workers were moved to temporary housing arrangements while action was initiated
against the culprits.
Contact: Visit www.mwc.org.sg to find out more about the good work that MWC has been doing and
its suite of services. Helpline: (+65) 6536 2692