So one of the least known things about NTUC is that they actually have a unit that looks out for migrant workers – Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC). We caught up with MWC to find out more about what they’ve been up to lately.
Q: What has been keeping you guys up at night?
MWC: Well, the haze has been affecting almost everyone. Since the haze started, MWC have reached out to 1,500 workers at different work sites. These workers include migrant workers, outdoor cleaners, grass-cutters, security officers at construction sites and workers involved in road works.
Q: Aren’t the employers doing anything for their workers who have to work outdoors?
MWC: The Labour Movement, along with its tripartite partners, has been urging all employers to take special care of their workers as the haze situation in Singapore reaches unhealthy levels, especially those whose work requires them to be outdoors for a majority of the time.
During our mask distribution, we will do our best to educate the workers exposed to haze the importance of wearing the mask and how to wear it. MWC offers protection to these vulnerable group of workers by highlighting errant employers who refuse to adhere to Tripartite Guidelines for employers on protecting employees from the effect of haze. We also tell all the workers to contact us at our 24-hour hotline if they encounter any issues. We can help to surface the names of these employers to the Ministry of Manpower for their follow-up directly with the employers.
Q: What is the situation really like on-ground? All these workers you’ve interacted with, were the majority of them already aware and educated on the haze situation, and given masks?
MWC: We have seen improvement. In the earlier days, awareness was lower. But as the haze situation persists, more and more workers we found outdoors have already been provided with masks and some education on protection from haze hazards.
We did, however, find a handful of workers who opted not to don the protection provided by their employers due to personal discomfort. We emphasized to them again the dangers of not protecting themselves when we visited and insisted again that they put on their masks. Since we cannot be there all the time, perhaps the employers can get their supervisors to ensure that the workers are suitably protected.
Q: Do you know if the workers were kept informed of the PSI on a daily/regular basis?
MWC: It varies from site to site. While some employers do provide masks and even educate the workers how to use them, there are also employers who don’t. We have seen very responsible employers who update workers on the PSI, although this group is rather rare.
Q: Do you know of many other community effort to care for these outdoor workers?
MWC: Well, MWC has also been supporting ground-up initiatives. One of our latest was with a group of students activists from NUS Law Studies in an outreach to migrant workers from Tuas View dormitory. We distributed a total of 600 masks. So yes, we’d say there’re very good people amongst the public who want to do more to show care for the more vulnerable groups.
Yes, while most of us are working in the comfort of our air-conditioned offices and homes, there are also others who have to brave the hazards of the high PSI and work outdoors. It is nice to see organizations like the MWC and volunteer groups like those law students from NUS spare time and effort to show care and concern for the more vulnerable groups.
Shall leave you with some words from the Chairman of MWC, Mr Yeo Guat Kwang,
“The MWC has deployed any time the PSI mark has crossed unhealthy levels, not only to give out N95 masks to mitigate and protect outdoor workers against the ill effects of the haze, but also to educate them on the proper usage of protective equipment, and raise awareness on the dangers posed by the haze, so that the migrant workers can also take personal ownership and responsibility over their own welfare and protection. We hope to help as many as we can during a time like this.”