CAROL YUEN: Today, I attended a dialogue with Janadas Devan, Chief of Government Communications at MCI. His answer to a question I posed regarding migrant worker rights left me thoroughly disappointed.
I told him I had been interning at HOME, and listed some problems that migrant workers face, namely how hard it is for them to make salary claims because MOM does not strictly enforce that employers give proper payslips and time cards, and how domestic workers are given insufficient food, and accommodation that infringes upon their privacy. I asked him what the government is doing about this.
He started his answer by listing the many problems supposedly created by migrant workers – the SMRT strike, the Little India Riot, and some worker sitting at the top of a crane and refusing to come down because he wanted to be given his salary (I do not know about this). He said the disturbance caused by these workers is a “serious problem” that must be resolved. He then mentioned that it is wrong from a human point of view [for workers to be treated badly by employers], which gave me some hope, but he then deviated to saying “I think there are too many domestic workers in Singapore.” The rest of the speech was a huge chunk on how these incidents of unrest involving migrant workers affects industrial relations and our reputation for industrial harmony. He also insinuated that “some NGOs have an agenda more than helping migrant workers”, and while most NGOs are OK, there are some which are not.
With such a mindset in the government, it is no wonder that salary and work injury issues continue to haunt migrant workers. People have to recognise that migrant workers are the victims of grossly unfair employer-worker power dynamics, instead of labelling them as the perpetrators of unrest. Moreover, before we talk about industrial harmony, we should first and foremost treat our migrant workers as fellow humans who deserve their rights. I hope we will all be cognisant of this.
Thank you Carol Yuen for this story.
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