Worker woes: Look beyond quick fixes

Strict punishment must be meted out if employers are interested in only lowering costs, at the expense of their workers.
PHOTO: ST

The conditions faced by foreign workers here - depressed wages, lack of certainty of being paid and not having an effective means of getting fair redress - are no different from those faced by victims of human trafficking ("$1.50 an hour is just too little for anyone"; last Sunday).

These can never be morally defensible, and Singaporeans and policymakers cannot hide behind the "moral fig leaf" that it is okay to pay these foreigners a pittance because they spend the bulk of their pay in their home countries, where the costs of living are far lower.

Sadly, policies that affect the minority often offer only quick fixes for short-term gains.

If a foreign worker lodges a complaint, the solution is often to get him to leave as soon as the complaint is resolved, and bring in a new worker to take his place.

The advantages of the "complaining" worker's work experience and acclimatisation to life here are ignored.

Policymakers need to look beyond the economic contribution of an individual worker, and respect his right to equitable and humane treatment in the workplace.

Wilfred Ong Chiew Leng


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