After the flames in Little India: Working, living conditions

Dissatisfaction with working and living conditions did not contribute to the riot.

That was what non-government organisations representing foreign workers, dormitory operators and workers themselves told the committee.

KEY PEOPLE

Migrant Workers' Centre executive director Bernard Menon, Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees' Union (Batu) deputy executive secretary Jennie Yeo, excavator operator Seenuvasan Selvaraja.

KEY POINT: HAPPY TO BE HERE

Workers who appeared before the committee said they were happy to be here.

One of them was construction worker Kannadasan Murugan, even though he said he would like to be paid more.

But when committee chairman Selvam asked if he would go on riot because of salary issues, he said: "No, sir. One does not have to resort to violence. One just has to take the matter up (with the authorities)."

Mr Menon said most workers here are "peaceful, genuine and hard-working" and fear repatriation.

"So they don't want to get in trouble, and rather fly under the radar."

KEY POINT: BETTER THAN BACK HOME

Dormitories here provide better living conditions than in their own countries, said Mr Willy Ng, operator of Homesafe Lodge in Kaki Bukit.

Mr Murugan also said he was happy with his living quarters - a three-storey dormitory where 15 men share a "spacious" room, even if 50 of them have to jostle for a shower at any one time.

Said Mr Seenuvasan: "Staying here is like staying with your own family back in India."



KEY POINT: BUT...

There are still grievances and employment-related issues affecting foreign workers, said Batu's Ms Yeo.

Ms Yeo, who ranked foreign workers' conditions in Singapore as a "five or six" out of 10, said one of the workers' grievances is their inability to seek recourse for salary claims.

She said the confiscation of foreign workers' passports by employers, who would ask for a security deposit of $1,000 to $5,000 from the workers if they want their passports back, is another problem.

But the police force's chief psychologist, Dr Majeed Khader, also said these issues appear to be more anecdotal than applicable to all foreign workers here.

TALKING POINT

When asked to rate his working experience here, Mr Seenuvasan said: "I would give Singapore 100 marks."

Amid laughter from the public gallery, chairman Selvam replied: "The Prime Minister will be very happy. Thank you."


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