Working behind the scenes

A recent post making the rounds on Facebook garnered quite a number of reactions in just a few hours. The post tells the story of a woman unfairly dismissed from her job because she got pregnant. In the end, she was compensated for her employer’s unacceptable (and illegal) treatment thanks to the intervention of the MoM.

The most interesting thing for me wasn’t so much the fact that people applauded MoM’s decision to compensate the woman (after all, people love stories of justice and redemption), but the fact that a lot of commenters still found ways of berating those that helped solve the situation.

It’s as if they didn’t even read the entire post that says MoM helped RESOLVE the situation!

These are a few of the most misinformed commenters:

Robert Teh: “Almost all the laws are unequally enforced to benefit a few in the country.”

Vernon Tay: “I can seriously say that both the unions & tripartite in Spore are really doing very little to help safeguard employees rights. In fact, they should close down!”

Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim: “I do feel sometimes that the tripartite alliance is really employer and govt ganging up against workers.”

To be honest, I can’t tell for sure if these commenters are genuinely misreading the situation or if they’re intentionally ignoring the facts.

One thing’s for sure, if I was the person from MoM who helped resolve the case, I’d be pretty annoyed at accusations that I didn’t do squat. Even if I evidently did set things straight between employer and the employee.

How degrading is it to not just ignore, but also denigrate someone’s efforts to solve complicated issues?

A friend of mine working with an international NGO in Indonesia tells me this is her daily life. Her organisation has set up complex administrative processes and created state-of-the-art financial structures, sometimes despite the difficult political or social context of the country, to send motivated people to work for the empowerment of people living in harsh conditions.

Most of the time, everything goes smoothly; the volunteers are able to do some incredible work in very limited timeframes and with very limited funds. And no one pays attention to all the work being done. But that’s OK, because people in that line of work don’t do it for the public recognition.

Yet when one thing goes wrong (a project gets delayed, an unforeseen expense pops up, a natural disaster wreaks havoc, an unreliable third-party messes things up, etc.), then everyone suddenly starts paying attention and becomes armchair experts on what should have/could have been done to prevent this.

Infuriating, right?

And that’s just on a small scale, in a small fishing village somewhere in Indonesia!

Think about larger organisations such as the United Nations, always being criticised for only being able to mediate conflicts once they’ve escalated or for being ignored when intervening in war situations.

The fact is: the UN does A LOT of things behind the scenes, things most of us are not even aware of but have prevented situations from becoming even worse than what we see on the news!

Whether it’s a conflict escalating, a war exploding, a disease spreading, or a famine growing, there are many instances in which a number of behind the scenes meetings, emails, discussions, conferences, negotiations, and other forms of communication prevented things from escalating.

Yet no one will ever discuss these efforts in the news.

It’s the same logic here: people are judging MoM and other labour movement efforts based on what they see (someone’s unfair dismissal was brought to light and swiftly dealt with), not on what they don’t see (the unfair dismissal could have gone undetected and unpunished).

Yet all these efforts are dismissed with a touch of the keyboard and a click of the mouse on Facebook…

This is particularly unfair to all those people working behind the scenes, especially because their work is designed to pay off in the long run. By being strict with employers who don’t treat employees according to the law, MOM is setting precedents so that other employers will think twice before acting the same way.

In other words, just because someone’s actions doesn’t have immediate results doesn’t mean the work isn’t being done or isn’t important!

But this long-term pay-off doesn’t even cross people’s minds; all they want is exciting, news-worthy, and immediately gratifying resolutions, like some sort of TV drama where problems are solved in 30 minutes or less.



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