Newly arrived drafting engineer Aditya Dadhwal was keen to knuckle down to his new job here after coming over from India last week, but he had one important step to complete first.
Mr Aditya, 24, had to attend a Settling-In Programme (SIP) run by the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) yesterday before starting at DJ Builder's Construction.
The one-day orientation aims to educate first-time foreign workers on their employment rights and obligations and on Singapore law in general.
It also seeks to inform them about local practices and social norms in Singapore, to help them adapt to living and working here.
The SIP, which is compulsory for all new non-Malaysian work permit holders in the construction sector, will be extended progressively to other sectors, Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad announced yesterday.
It will cover workers in the marine, process and manufacturing sectors by the end of this year.
Mr Zaqy said: "Besides legislation and enforcement, education remains key to safeguarding the interest of foreign workers in Singapore."
The programme caters to 1,200 construction industry workers a month, a number predicted to rise by 1,700 following the new sectors' additions.
EDUCATION STILL KEY
Besides legislation and enforcement, education remains key to safeguarding the interest of foreign workers in Singapore.
MINISTER OF STATE FOR MANPOWER ZAQY MOHAMAD
Workers must attend the SIP before they can be issued their work permits. The programme is conducted in English and is also available in Bengali, Burmese, Mandarin, Tamil and Thai.
The SIP has received positive feedback from both employers and the 5,000 or so workers who have attended the classroom-based orientation since it began last October, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) said.
Mr Zaqy said 90 per cent of employers have backed the SIP, despite it costing $75 for each employee to attend the programme.
Mrs Elango Rajalakshmi, a director of Elanta Engineering and Construction, said the SIP is very beneficial in helping her workers understand Singapore better.
Mr Zaqy also noted that 98 per cent of workers have found the initiative to be very useful.
Ms Chekkapalli Dinya, 26, an engineering trainee on a six-month work permit, said the course was helpful as it emphasised her employment rights "with more clarification and details".
Mr Aditya added that it addressed his queries, such as whether working for two employers is legal.
The Straits Times was invited to attend an SIP session, which is capped at 20 workers to one trainer.
They were briefed on the terms and conditions of their In-Principle Approval letter - a practice that the MOM said has been effective in minimising salary disputes.
Other than covering basic employment rights, the course prepared workers for cultural differences they may experience here.
Legal advice was provided as well, from how to identify legal remittance providers to the maximum agency fee they are held liable for.
Workers were also informed about facilities available at the MWC, such as the seven recreation centres, legal clinics and help kiosks.
Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, the centre's chairman, noted: "Through the SIP, the migrant workers are assured that they can approach the MOM or MWC for any assistance should they face any issues such as well-being and salary disputes."