The Straits Times
Published on Dec 14, 2012

Sincerity important in safeguarding welfare of workers


LAWS and guidelines are important to ensure proper worker welfare ("Making it work"; Saturday) but they are not enough.

What we do when nobody is watching is an indication of who we truly are. People often get away with not following laws and guidelines.

Migrant workers have told me that safety violations are sometimes not reported. And when they raise safety concerns with their employers, they are sometimes told: "If you're not happy, go back to your country!"

So, the cultivation of integrity and compassion is key.

All major faiths cherish compassion. Their golden rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. Faith-based groups could specifically share with their worshippers the importance of practising compassion and integrity in the workplace. They could teach followers how to be role models and share best practices.

Those in the corporate social responsibility circles can encourage members to treat their workers well.

This would be more in keeping with the true spirit of being a good corporate citizen than making donations to charities while not paying enough attention to one's employees.

A lot of research shows that better employee well-being leads to better business outcomes. Businesses need to be made aware of this.

Parents can also be role models for their children. And students can be taught in school how to communicate with low-income workers, such as making eye contact with them and greeting them with a smile.

If adults treat these workers with dignity and respect, the children may do that, too, and grow up to become more humane employers.

Let us remember our limited time on earth.

At the end of our lives, what matters is our character. How compassionate were we? Did we practise integrity? What legacy are we leaving in the hearts of people who knew us, including our employees? If we have treated people well, we would be proud of ourselves when we die, and we would have lived happier lives.

Vadivu Govind (Ms)