Migrant worker network aims to get 2,000 'buddies' by 2018

About 10,000 migrant workers played games and enjoyed performances at the May Day Migrant Workers' Celebration yesterday at Sungei Tengah Lodge, a new migrant workers' dormitory in Chua Chu Kang. The event capped the labour movement's month-long May
About 10,000 migrant workers played games and enjoyed performances at the May Day Migrant Workers' Celebration yesterday at Sungei Tengah Lodge, a new migrant workers' dormitory in Chua Chu Kang. The event capped the labour movement's month-long May Day festivities.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

More foreign workers will be appointed as volunteer grassroots leaders to help voice out to the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) problems their peers may be facing.

The MWC Buddies Network, set up in 2013, currently has 700 "MWC buddies" and 60 business members. The MWC aims to increase the number of buddies to 1,000 this year, and to 2,000 by the end of next year.

MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang, who announced this yesterday, said the centre, started by the labour movement, hopes this move will increase its influence and connection with the migrant worker community. He was speaking at the May Day Migrant Workers' Celebration, which caps the labour movement's month-long May Day festivities.

Besides surfacing workers' grievances to the MWC, the network helps to disseminate information to workers and give on-the-ground updates and feedback on unfair employment practices and potential incidents, so the MWC can intervene early before problems escalate.

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Mr John Britto, 33, an Indian national who works as a driving supervisor here, said: "I joined the network years ago as I like to help people. If the workers have salary or housing issues or other problems at work, I refer them to MWC."

Mr Yeo said: "With this network in place, we hope that in future, if there's any crisis or major event, this community link can help us assure the migrant workers that we're here to help."

Yesterday's celebration was held at Sungei Tengah Lodge in Chua Chu Kang, the newest and largest purpose-built migrant workers dormitory here. About 10,000 migrant workers took part in the event, which included carnival games and stage performances.

Volunteers and guests also distributed more than 150 "thank you" cards, made by primary and secondary school students, to the workers and served them dinner.

The MWC also thanked the event's guest of honour, Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck, for championing the cause of migrant workers during his time at the ministry.

Mr Teo will step down from office on June 30 and return to the private sector, at his request, but he will continue to serve as an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'Migrant worker network aims to get 2,000 'buddies' by 2018'. Print Edition | Subscribe