Migrant workers need more than just legal help

Fact: Migrant workers account for close to 15% of the population.

Many perform back-bending tasks for long hours under the sun, their pay does not commensurate. Yet, this group of workers leave their home countries in search of a better livelihood.

I happen to know a 27 year old, Krishnamoorthy Raj Kumar. The Indian national came to Singapore in late 2012 to work in the construction sector. Unfortunately, Krishnamoorthy faced some trouble with his employer. He was owed his salary of five months which the employer had refused to pay. He was told time and again that the pay will be paid the following month.

Pay being delayed because employer doesn’t want to pay, sounds familiar?
Krishnamoorthy’s had the good sense to turn to the Migrant Worker’s Centre (an agency listed in a welcome card provided to him when he first came to Singapore), to recover the amount due to him after it escalated his case to the Ministry of Manpower for investigation.

Krishnamoorthy’s case is just but one of many such employment issues which migrant workers face in Singapore. Legal help is not the only type of help that they need.

According to the Migrant Worker’s Centre, there are numerous requests for assistance to aid migrant workers to resolve a myriad of employment issues: these range from helping to temporarily house workers who have been unfairly terminated by their employers or even those who have run away from their employers for fear of repatriation.

The fear of repatriation stems from the large amount of money paid to an agent by the worker back home, in order to come to our shores to be employed.
More than half of injured and salary-claim migrant workers in Singapore reported that they have been threatened with repatriation, which industry watchers say is rather common.

The MWC also jointly provides free meals to migrant workers at two locations in Geylang together with non-profit organization HealthServe.

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Preserving the peace

Hard hitting assistance like legal means, housing, advocacy and activism is one thing. Keeping a thumb on the pulse of foreign labour is another. Don’t under estimate the outreach activities, community engagement, advocacy and public education that is being conducted.

Often, when faced with legal issues, migrant workers may have certain barriers to accessing legal advice which includes language barriers, lack of knowledge of legal rights.

Have a look at these programs conducted by Beyond The Borders, Behind The Men:

Today, there is a form of protection and integration for foreign workers. With Singapore in a perpetual state of construction, with more foreign labour entering the country to look after our aged… I think it would make more sense for the labour machinery to further improve their mechanisms to preserve stability in Singapore.

 

 

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Arthur Lee

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