Welfare of foreign workers still lacking

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said that Singapore looks out for the welfare of foreign workers in its midst through laws that protect their basic rights ("S'pore 'ensures welfare of foreign workers'"; Oct 27).

But, after talking to some of the workers, I find that they have no job security and minimal insurance coverage.

One worker told me that, apart from paying the agent in their home country, migrant workers have to pay a hefty amount to the employer for their visa. I was given to understand that this fee is shared between the employer and the Singapore agent.

When they arrive in Singapore, some of them are given another contract, and the terms and conditions differ from the contract they signed in their home country.

How is it that the contract can be changed once the worker arrives in Singapore? The original contract should be upheld.

I once met a young woman working at the airport. She said she was promised a certain salary but when she arrived here, a new contract with a lower salary was handed to her. She had no choice but to sign or else she would be sent back.

Some employers do not pay their workers on a regular basis. When the workers remind their employer, they are given a warning and threatened with being sent back.

All this must be stopped as soon as possible.

Workers must be given a translation of the contract in their own language.

Employers should not be allowed to change the contract when the worker arrives in Singapore.

There should also be stiffer penalties for employers who house workers in inhumane conditions.

The Manpower Ministry should make it a point to call some workers from time to time, to interview them privately about their housing and wages.

This way, they would not fear talking about their unhappiness.

Malaysia resumed hiring labourers from Bangladesh through a government-to-government channel in 2013. Can we not do so too?

I hope that the migrant workers will have a better future in the years to come.

Shamim Moledina (Ms)