Equal rights for all workers not possible

I respect Mr Jolovan Wham, the executive director of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, for helping migrant workers to fight for their rights as stipulated in their employment contracts or within the framework of Singapore law ("Singapore can lead the way in foreign workers' rights"; Dec 27).

Yes, we must expose employers who exploit, cheat or bully their foreign workers.

Nevertheless, I disagree with Mr Wham urging the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to accede to the United Nations Convention for the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

Mr Wham believes Singapore can set an example for the region by signing the convention, even though many countries have not.

First, foreign workers in Singapore are attracted by higher salaries, better exposure or other factors that benefit them.

The employers taking them on can meet their manpower needs or use their skills to make their companies more competitive. It is a win-win situation involving two willing parties.

Yes, we must recognise foreign workers' contributions to the Singapore economy but it is also a fact that Singapore has given them the opportunity to improve their livelihood.

Many have applied and wish to work in Singapore.

Mr Wham has mentioned that multinational corporations (MNCs), in particular, recognise this fact and have established diversity committees to create inclusive work environments.

The fact is that at many MNCs - including the one I previously worked for - the benefits enjoyed by staff differ based on their country of origin, even though they are carrying out the same duties as others.

Examples of such benefit categories are "local-plus-plus" for those employees coming from Western Europe and "local-plus" for the employees from Eastern Europe, "local" for Singaporeans and "local-minus" for those from developing countries.

This segregation entails differences in benefit entitlements for housing, transport, healthcare, salary and other areas.

Although Singapore's 50 years of achievements have been amazing, we are still just a small red dot and do not have the ability to play the role of an "international police" by demanding that all MNCs invested in Singapore provide their employees with the same benefits regardless of their country of origin.

This is just an ideal which will not, and should not, happen.

Sim Lim Onn