By AJ Jennevieve and Misaki Tan
During the fourth MeetPSP session on Wednesday (June 17), the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) introduced another set of members to the public.
The questions posed to the session by members of the public this time round were more social, including on foreign worker rights.
PSP member Kala Manickam answered a question regarding the foreign worker dormitories with a personal anecdote. The question was about how the foreign worker dormitories are being managed and whether the foreign workers deserve an apology for what they have gone through.
In her anecdote, Ms Kala Manickam spoke about her 22-year-old cousin who had come to Singapore to work in the construction sector.
She related the mismanagement of his healthcare. He had been unwell and saw a doctor. He was given MC but became bloated after taking the medication. He saw his supervisor again and saw the doctor again. The doctor advised immediate hospitalisation. However, the supervisor told him the manager was not around and he had to wait for the manager. When the cousin said that he wanted to go to the hospital, the supervisor threatened to cancel his work permit.
Ms Kala Manickam pointed out that foreign workers pay a lot of money to come out to work. So her cousin was frightened and he did not go to hospital. Later that night, he threw up and died on the way to hospital.
She added that the supervisor hid all the evidence and pretended that he was unaware of her cousin’s illness. She had to deal with the Ministry of Manpower all the way but managed to get only $13,000. He was an only son and his mother had “almost gone mad”.
As for the question posed to her online regarding the foreign worker dormitories, she said that the living conditions in the dorms must have been “really unbearable” and thus agreed that the Government definitely should apologise to the foreign workers.
Adding to her comments, fellow PSP member Francis Yuen asserted that the foreign worker issue is a larger issue. Pointing out that there are a million of them in Singapore, he asked: “Do we need them to complement our work force? Do we need them at this scale, at this size?” He said that, if we need them, those responsible for housing them must exercise their responsibility and our authority must exercise their oversight to make sure that the regulations are all ensured and are being enforced. He said that “so, it’s not a matter of hindsight, but a matter of foresight”.
Mr Yuen queried the strategy of employing low-cost workers, especially when it comes to productivity. He also asked: “Why are we in a hurry to build all these mega projects? Why can’t we phase them out and, therefore, we do not have to employ so many at one time, even if we need them?”
He added: “Singapore has a problem and we need to really address this issue. We cannot just simply give the excuse that we need foreign workers and we continuously employ them. There are ways to control the growth …” /TISG