Greater protection and care for migrant workers needed

Greater protection and care for migrant workers needed

THE Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) is pleased that issues concerning the protection and welfare of migrant workers were highlighted in the article ("Give foreign workers a fair deal"; Sunday).

Practices of errant overseas employment agents have been a long-term challenge for the Government and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

We agree that international bilateral solutions should be pursued by the Government to help alleviate the situation, but believe this should be complemented by other measures to make more impactful progress towards eradicating this problem.

First, we need to ensure that work permit holders' contracts have key employment terms to prevent agents from using unfair or deceptive clauses to cheat migrant workers, which the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has agreed to earlier this year.

Second, we need more employment education for migrant workers before they leave their home countries.

From our experience with migrant workers, we found that many are unaware of their rights.

So we recently partnered MOM to produce a pre-departure video to educate them on unfair and illegal agency practices, social and cultural norms, employment rights and help channels.

Giving them this information in their native languages before they leave will give them a greater chance of recovering inflated charges they have paid under the laws and legal systems of their own countries.

The bulk of migrant workers we help come to us with salary-related issues.

The process for claiming salary arrears requires them to provide evidence in the form of documents like payslips, which is difficult as the issuance of such documents is not widespread.

The MWC has been advocating hard for migrant workers' salaries to be paid through electronic means, to act as proof of payment.

While we are encouraged that the MOM has said it is exploring this, we remain concerned about how long it will take to roll out this urgently needed protection for migrant workers.

The most critical gap that needs closure is the migrant workers' inability to claim their rightful salaries due to lack of evidence, which the system does not compel employers to provide them with.

The MWC believes the protection and care of migrant workers is an issue of great importance to Singapore.

We call on the Government, NGOs, employers and Singaporeans to make an effort to enhance the way we treat, protect and care for migrant workers.

Let us send a clear signal that Singapore cares for, recognises and values every worker.

Yeo Guat Kwang Chairman Migrant Workers' Centre

This article was first published on July 12, 2014.
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