Talent show, fun fair, dinner among treats for foreign workers

(From far left) Ms Mariclaire Arbis, Ms Kristine Lim Lee and Ms Edyn Grace Dadohinog are among the 12 finalists competing in the MWC talent show today. They were at Serangoon Plaza last weekend in search of clothes for their performances.
(From far left) Ms Mariclaire Arbis, Ms Kristine Lim Lee and Ms Edyn Grace Dadohinog are among the 12 finalists competing in the MWC talent show today. They were at Serangoon Plaza last weekend in search of clothes for their performances.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

It is International Migrants Day today and several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) helping foreign workers are holding activities to celebrate their contributions.

The Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) is holding a talent show at Ci Yuan Community Club in Hougang where 12 foreign workers are competing to win the top prize of $3,000 cash. The MWC said it will stream the show live on the Internet to six foreign worker recreation centres for other workers to watch.

"The event showcases the musical talents among foreign workers," said Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, chairman of the National Trades Union Congress-backed MWC and assistant secretary-general of NTUC.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said its senior officials will be at the show.

Over at Toa Payoh Town Park, the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) is holding a fun fair for 300 maids, featuring games and singing performances. The CDE, which was set up by NTUC in January, will be presenting folded paper hearts to the maids to show its appreciation.

Meanwhile, newly formed non-profit group Project Chulia Street is hosting a dinner for 7,000 workers at the Westlite Dormitory in Tuas. It is the third dinner the privately funded group is holding for migrant workers this year. It previously held dinners for about 11,000 workers in conjunction with May Day and National Day.

Some groups, such as Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), celebrated the occasion early, with a movie and meal treat for about 200 migrant workers two weeks ago. The screening of superhero film Doctor Strange on Dec 4 also served as its annual fund-raising event, with some $60,000 raised.

Mr Patrick Tay, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, said such activities organised by NGOs complement efforts by the Government, public and embassies in looking after the welfare of foreign workers.

"NGOs can help promote the harmonious co-existence of migrant workers and locals, and generate greater acceptance and integration in our living and working spaces," said Mr Tay, who is also assistant secretary-general of NTUC.

Domestic worker Kristine Lim Lee, a contestant in the MWC talent show, said such events motivate foreign workers. "I feel encouraged that foreign workers like me are appreciated," said the 32-year-old who has worked here for five years.

But social worker and activist Jolovan Wham, consultant at the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), said that events to mark the day cannot be entirely celebratory in nature.

Home urged the Government to ratify the United Nations' International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The convention, introduced in 1990, came into force in 2003 and spells out protections for migrant workers and their families.

"It is not about throwing them a party," said Mr Wham.

Responding, the MOM said 144 of the 193 UN member states have not ratified the convention. A ministry spokesman said the ministry ensures that the rights and well-being of foreign workers are protected under labour laws, but ratifying the convention means giving migrants and their families "a wide range of rights", including the "same access to social security, equal employment rights in terms of remuneration and conditions of work".

"Given Singapore's constraints, we do not think that we can accede to such stipulations," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 18, 2016, with the headline 'Talent show, fun fair, dinner among treats for foreign workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe