Firms have 'vital role in good behaviour of workers'

Firms have 'vital role in good behaviour of workers'
Senior workers S.P. Rajendran (in yellow shirt) and M. Selvaraj with other workers at Westlite Dormitory. The two are in charge of their colleagues at the dormitory in Toh Guan, and help to maintain order. They often chat with other workers to find out about their problems and help to counsel them. This plays a part in motivating workers to behave responsibly.

SINGAPORE - Employers have a key role in ensuring that foreign workers behave responsibly while in Singapore, said dormitory operators as they weighed in on how to avoid a repeat of the Dec 8 riot.

Firms which go the extra mile by, for instance, appointing senior workers as dorm leaders or cutting bonuses for the breaking of rules such as drinking alcohol in dorm rooms, will generally face fewer problems, they explained.

Westlite group dormitory manager Bakurdeen A. Majid, who runs three dorms housing 18,000, suggested that employers put more experienced workers in charge of their colleagues at dorms.

"The senior workers have the men's respect as they are supervisors. The men also know that if they behave badly, the senior workers will tell their bosses."

Senior workers like 48-year-old Indian national M. Selvaraj, who has been working in Singapore for 13 years, said workers see him as an older brother. He makes it a point to find out how his colleagues are doing when they have dinner together.

"If they have problems, I will give them advice," he said.

Dr Ho Nyok Yong, president of the Singapore Contractors Association, which manages six dorms housing around 20,000 workers, said companies can motivate workers to act more responsibly by rewarding those who show initiative and leadership with promotions and pay rises.

Sing Moh Electrical Engineering director Kenneth Teo, who employs about 160 foreign workers, said workers become role models when they are promoted to kepala (Malay for "head"), which is the construction industry's term for foremen.

"The kepala can keep an eye on other workers outside of work too," he added.

Construction foreman S.P. Rajendran, a 38-year-old worker from India, said he is patient with the 12 workers under his charge at the dorm.

"Workers don't like it if you are fierce. If you talk nicely, everything can be settled," he said.

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