atans1

Pls spare migrant workers pennies from the $2.5bn++ they “gift” S’pore

In Economy, Political governance, Public Administration on 27/12/2013 at 4:30 am

(This is a follow-up to this on how Santa 2.0, the govt and Scrooge are related.)

TOC’s Terry Xu commented on Facebook a few days ago: The total foreign worker levies collected were S$2.5 billion for the Financial Year 2011 and S$1.9 billion for the Financial Year 2010. Similar to other sources of Government revenue, the foreign worker levies are not ringfenced for any specific purposes. All Government revenue collected would go into the Consolidated Fund used to fund Government expenditures in general.”

And it goes up even more in the year 2012, 2013 given that there are more workers and that the levies have increased since then … (Thanks Terry for this info. I’d been meaning to check up the quantum and use of the levies, but never got round to googling)

This means the govt can do more, a lot more, to ensure that these workers have better living and work environments, and are not exploited (This is how bad things can be: http://www.lianainfilms.com/2013/12/the-singapore-way/), without increasing the tax burden on S’poreans and others living here, or on the workers’ employers, and biz in general.

Surely some of this money can be used to set-up a medical insurance fund and a general welfare fund for these workers? Surplus for our SWFs to use to place bets on juz a bit smaller. True, we pay them wages but those wages are off-set by the Hard Truth that if they were not available, we’d be paying serious money to get workers or robots to do what they are currently doing for “peanuts”.

But I would like to remind the activists that there are worse places that migrant workers are willing to go to.

A November report produced by Amnesty International, the British-based rights group, found the Qatari construction industry to be “rife with abuse”, including forced labour and virtual slavery. Workers complained that their salaries were half what they were promised, or that they had not been paid at all for months. Others said their wages had been docked for taking five-minute breaks during 18-hour shifts in the searing summer heat. Sponsors routinely confiscate their employees’ passports, preventing them from changing jobs or leaving the country. In the most extreme cases, workers have paid with their lives: this summer 44 Nepalese migrants died in two months from heart failure or work-related accidents. The International Trade Union Confederation warns that as many as 4,000 labourers could perish during the next nine years of construction.

(http://www.economist.com/blogs/gametheory/2013/12/football-and-labour-rights-qatar)

I’m not using the fact that are are worse places than S’pore to defend the S’pore Way: juz to try to put things in perspective. We are not “Swiss” enough, but we are not cruel slave masters, far from it. Interestingly, about 10 yrs I met an Iraqi who was working in ST. We got talking and somehow touched on employer/ employee relations: and he reminded me that the people of the Gulf had only stopped owning slaves legally in the early 20th century, and that there was a slave, master mentality there even in 2003.

Workfair and Maruah should campaign for the use of some of the $2.5bn to be used to provide medical insurance and other benefits, not against the deportation without, what they claim, is due process. I’ll blog on the deportation issue next week.

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