It is surprising that, in a modern and progressive Singapore, it should be the fate of some workers to use bin centres, pool pump rooms and carparks as rest areas. This is reportedly the situation for some, not all, workers when tasks such as cleaning, security and landscape maintenance have been outsourced. Their plight was highlighted recently in this newspaper, which found gardeners from a nearby mall sitting on the floor at an MRT station to have their lunch. They said they did not have a rest area. One of them also spoke ruefully of prohibitions against resting and eating. At a school, a security officer was found to have fashioned his own shelter from corrugated cardboard to shield his run-down guard post, as well as the table that he had bought, from the elements. The man sometimes went to nearby void decks during his break to nap. He worked a 12-hour shift but could not rest in the guardhouse because people would think he was sleeping on the job.
These are practical issues faced by groups of workers in such jobs. It is not the law that dictates their condition, nor do better-off Singaporeans, who are employees themselves, subscribe to that condition. Yet, the issue persists because it is only lately that it has been recognised as a problem. The solution is to put into practice the principle that every worker, no matter what his economic level of contribution is, and no matter whether he is a local or foreign worker, should be treated fairly and be entitled to breaks at specified times during his work-day. That is the right and decent thing to do. Indeed, it is by recognising such values that employers can create a better economic and social environment for lower-wage workers.