SINGAPORE: Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Dr Paul Tambyah has asked if migrant workers can be given better facilities or more time to have a proper lunch, in response to photos of a group of workers having a meal on a sidewalk.
The photos were posted by non-profit It’s Raining Raincoats on Thursday (30 Mar), which said: “Workers who have put in a hard morning’s work in the hot sun, enjoying a simple meal on the pavement floor under the shade of trees.
“There is no elegant china, clinking crystal or starched tablecloth around, but isn’t this a fine meal and a grand sight? So much dignity in labour and the eloquence of simplicity.”
Calling on Singaporeans to treat migrant workers with kindness and give them the dignity they deserve, the charity added: “If you pass by workers eating on a pavement as you walk past, don’t avert your eyes or feel ashamed for yourself or them.
“Instead celebrate their presence, make eye contact and exchange a smile or a few words, and if it’s near your home offer them some ice cold water. The least we can do is offer them dignity of presence and the gift of camaraderie.”
The photos show four migrant workers sitting on the sidewalk of what appears to be a local park, sharing a meal as their shoes and hard hats lay beside them.
Interestingly, there are a few unoccupied benches near the group but they have clearly chosen to sit and eat together on the ground. While this could be their preference, some online have wondered if they may have chosen to do so out of possible fear of reprisal from their bosses.
Several commenters asked if more cannot be done for these migrant workers and whether employers could at least provide foldable tables and chairs for their workers’ use.
SDP chairman and prolific infectious diseases specialist Dr Tambyah is among those who have expressed concern. Suggesting that more time might allow migrant workers to go off-site to have a proper meal if they do not have proper tables and chairs to use, he asked:
“Is there a possibility of a safe, clean eating place like one of the tables with benches in our parks? Or at least time to go to a safe and clean place not far from the worksite?”