8 December 2014 – All’s calm on the Singapore front. But that wasn’t the case one year ago on the same evening, when the Little India riot put the city into a state of shock.
Following the incident, a Committee of Inquiry (COI) was set up, and it made wide ranging recommendations in June this year.
Among them, it called for more services and amenities to be made available to foreign workers outside of their congregation areas.
The COI also called on agencies to work with local community stakeholders on measures to reduce congestion at these congregation areas.
NTUC’s Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) has been hard at work at implementing these recommendations to make every foreign worker feel at home here.
One of MWC’s immediate tasks was to ensure that migrant workers are not left to fend for themselves when in trouble.
MWC currently has a 24-hour Helpline (Tel: 6536 2692), a network of help Centres and volunteers these workers can call when in need of help.
MWC’s Executive Director Bernard Menon said the next task is to constantly improve migrant workers’ protection and conditions of work.
To this end, MWC recently launched a pre-departure video for migrant workers before they arrive, telling them about the do’s and don’ts about working in Singapore.
Explained Mr Menon: “We can’t control what employers tell their workers when they recruit them about conditions in Singapore. What we can try and do is to tell the workers there a clearer and more truthful reflection on the reality here. That’s what the pre-departure video seeks to do.”
MWC hopes to expand its outreach on airing the pre-departure video at places like the testing centres run by the Building and Construction Authority and in countries like China, India and Bangladesh. MWC plans to work with embassies here to have the video shown to workers before they leave their country for Singapore.
On the whole, MWC reported that sentiments amongst foreign workers about working here remain positive.
A survey jointly undertaken by both MWC and Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower show that by and large, the majority of foreign workers here are satisfied with their working conditions and employers.
However there are still some areas which need improvement and MWC is working on them.
According to Mr Menon, there is a need for employers to ensure that work conditions spelt out in the In-Principle Approval letter are conveyed to the foreign worker in their mother-tongue. This, observed MWC, is still not being done and complied with fully.
On The Move
Next on the cards for the MWC – a mobile outreach effort by early next year where a vehicle can go to areas with a high foreign workers concentration to render assistance if necessary.
MWC is also engaging the local community to help them better understand the concerns of foreign workers and appreciate their contributions.
It also goes to schools, the universities and polytechnics to give students an idea of the work migrant workers do in Singapore.
(Source: NTUC This Week)