Migrant Workers' Centre expands volunteer network

Migrant workers breaking into a dance routine upon hearing some of their favourite songs played over the loudspeakers at a ceremony to mark International Migrants Day - which falls on Wednesday - in Little India yesterday. About 5,000 workers attende
Migrant workers breaking into a dance routine upon hearing some of their favourite songs played over the loudspeakers at a ceremony to mark International Migrants Day - which falls on Wednesday - in Little India yesterday. About 5,000 workers attended the Migrant Workers' Centre celebrations.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

With 5,000 ambassadors now, MWC will also recruit workers from factory-converted dorms

In October, safety professional Ahmed Amad, 30, found out that a friend was owed two months' worth of salary - $1,800 in total - by his employer.

"He had no money to buy food, and had to come to me to borrow money. His parents also depended on his salary," said Mr Ahmed, a Bangladeshi work permit holder who has been working in Singapore for 10 years.

His friend, whom he knows as Manik, was in great distress and did not know where to go for help.

Mr Ahmed, with five years of experience as a volunteer ambassador with the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC), referred him to the centre which managed to help his friend get the sum of money back from his employer after a month.

"With the money, Manik could go back to Bangladesh with peace of mind," said Mr Ahmed, who added that his friend has since found a new job.

Mr Ahmed was one of 10 MWC ambassadors given certificates of recognition by Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad at a ceremony in Little India yesterday evening.

It was held in conjunction with a celebration featuring performances and games to mark International Migrants Day, which falls on Wednesday.

MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said the volunteer network can help bring problems faced by their peers to the attention of the MWC. There are now 5,000 ambassadors, up from 1,500 in 2017.

Yesterday, the MWC, which is backed by the Ministry of Manpower, the National Trades Union Congress and employers, said it will be expanding its volunteer outreach efforts.


MR AHMED AMAD (above), a Bangladeshi work permit holder who has been working in Singapore for 10 years and has five years' experience as a volunteer ambassador with the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC).

While the current pool of MWC ambassadors are mainly from the 45 purpose-built dormitories here, the MWC will also be recruiting workers from factory-converted dormitories.

"As these non-purpose-built dormitories may lack the necessary amenities and are often smaller in size, community and peer support might be lacking - especially for newer migrant workers or migrant workers facing disputes," said the MWC in a statement.

Typically, purpose-built dormitories house thousands of workers, while factory-converted ones may house fewer than a thousand workers in each facility.

 
 
 

Purpose-built dormitories also have to adhere to stricter rules under the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act, introduced in 2016.

Mr Ahmed said he refers about two cases to the MWC a month. Common issues faced by workers include salary disputes and work-related injuries.

"Many workers are scared of going to the authorities, but we tell them that MWC can help," he added.

Besides flagging disputes, the MWC ambassadors help educate their fellow workers on their employment rights and convey relevant information such as legislative amendments and celebratory events in the migrant community.

About 5,000 workers attended the MWC celebrations yesterday.

Separately, the Centre for Domestic Employees also organised a river cruise for more than 30 families and their foreign domestic workers yesterday afternoon as part of its International Migrants Day celebrations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2019, with the headline 'Migrant Workers' Centre expands volunteer network'. Print Edition | Subscribe