3 reports on protecting workers’ rights: Really?

TR Emeritus

Nov 26, 2013


Champion workers’ rights?

I refer to the article “Why I champion workers’ rights: Halimah Yacob” (Straits Times, Nov 26).

It states that “what drove her to help develop global employment standards as the workers’ vice-chairperson of the standards committee for the International Labour Conference in Geneva”.

“Illegal” workers waiting for compensation? 

In this connection, the article “Workers find illegal jobs through informal network” (Straits Times, Nov 25) said that “most of them are injured as a result of their legal work. They ran away from their official employers because they were not paid and are afraid they may be sent home.

Cannot work – how to survive?

Their work permits are cancelled but they have been issued special passes, which allow them to stay in Singapore legally as they wait for compensation. They are not allowed to work when holding special passes but many ignore the law”.

How do these “illegal” workers survive when they are not allowed to work?

No income, no food, no lodging?

Are there any developed countries in the world that have such a system whereby workers awaiting compensation have to work “illegally” in order to have some meager income for food and lodging?

As to “Desperate to get hired, the men, who usually stay in shop-houses in Little India, take on jobs without haggling for more pay” – I understand that most of them sleep along the corridors of shophouses after they close, and depend on non-government organizations (NGOs) to issue a card to enable them to get free food everyday.

I have over the years, brought several foreign journalists to these places, to report on the plight of such workers.

Treat foreign workers well because it’s right? 

I would like to applaud Professor Chan Heng Chee’s remarks “It is our moral duty as human beings to treat others with dignity and respect. This applies to peer as well as subordinate.

It should not be the law that forces us to do so. We should treat them well, feed them adequately, allow rest time and abuse of workers should be ruled out” (Treat migrant workers well because it’s right to do so”, Straits Times, Nov 25).

Parliament, labour movement – voice people’s concerns? 

With regard to “She (Halimah Yacob) said Parliament is one of the key institutions upholding democracy here and that sessions are in-depth and robust ……….. they are the voice of the people and they voice the people’s concerns, needs and aspirations”- how did we end up with the current state whereby, arguably the most fundamental right of workers – a decent pay – is at issue?

Over 500,000 earn below $1,500?

In this connection, I estimate that over 500,000 Singaporeans earn less than $1,500 a month, and about 400,000 earn less than $1,200.

ComCare, Medifund, etc, statistics worsening?

The number of Singaporeans who may be struggling to make ends meet appears to be increasing, if we look at the ComCare, Medifund, etc, statistics.

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.