Authorities to look into migrant workers’ grievances

Authorities to look into migrant workers’ grievances
Mr Shanmugam speaking to foreign workers during his visit to their dormitories in Simpang Lodge 1 yesterday. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong
Published: 4:04 AM, December 13, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, December 14, 2013
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SINGAPORE — The authorities will look into any grievances foreign workers may have, although those they have spoken to have said they had none, said Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam after a dialogue with about 250 Indian workers last night.

Speaking to reporters after visiting a foreign workers’ dormitory in Yishun — his second visit to a dormitory in as many days — Mr Shanmugam said: “They have no complaints about working conditions, about salaries, about their employers. Now, please don’t conclude therefore that no one has any complaints ... it doesn’t mean there are no black sheep.”

He added: “If there’s contrary evidence, we are happy to listen, because our task is not to deny evidence. In fact, we are happy to receive the evidence and deal with it ... we are looking, searching (for evidence).”

On Wednesday, Mr Shanmugam visited Kranji Lodge, where he assured workers that they would not be deported or have problems getting their contracts renewed in the future if they did not do anything wrong. Some workers had expressed concerns that they might be sent home after their work permits expire.

He noted yesterday that the feedback from workers has been generally positive, with many citing that they are happy to work in Singapore.

The minister was accompanied by union leaders and Nominated Member of Parliament R Dhinakaran during yesterday’s visit. They advised foreign workers not to listen to rumours and said those who abide by the law would be protected.

On talk among the workers that new work permits had not been granted, Mr Shanmugam explained that this was due to the tightening of foreign manpower restrictions that had started earlier.

Sharing the thoughts he had received from the foreign workers he met, the minister noted that they wanted Singaporeans to avoid generalising Indian foreign workers here. “The dominant trend of thought so far is ... ‘Please leave us alone, we haven’t done anything wrong ... Don’t tar everyone with the same brush, these are the actions of a small minority ... Please, Singaporeans, don’t think all of us are the same’,” said Mr Shanmugam, who urged Singaporeans to treat these foreign workers with compassion.

Separately, the Indian High Commissioner to Singapore, Ms Vijay Thakur Singh, said last night that there had been no signs of discontentment among Indian nationals who work here, though it would be natural for workers to be concerned about their wages, benefits and compensation.

These were issues on which she would engage her Singapore counterparts so as to find solutions, Ms Singh told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to Westlite Mandai dormitory.

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