It is worrying but also heartening to note that more foreign workers received help this year from the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC). Over $500,000 in financial assistance was provided, more than double the figure given out from the Migrant Workers' Assistance Fund last year. Distressed foreign workers benefited from meals, ex-gratia payments and housing - three critical components of the lifeline extended to those in dire straits. They find themselves in such situations when they cannot recover salary claims fully, for instance.
The work of organisations such as the MWC underscores the fundamental principle that workers, whether local or foreign, deserve the same broad protection of a system that seeks to balance the needs of workers with the demands of an economy. Such demands are sometimes personified by the actions of employers, whose companies strive to generate jobs and employment amid the challenges of market competition at home and internationally. This reality does not mean that workers can be discarded at will. While the principle applies to all employees, many foreign workers labour under the particular fear that they will be repatriated or lose their jobs if they complain about their bosses or conditions of employment. That would mean the loss not only of future earnings, but also of what it cost them to get here.