The Straits Times spotted about ten foreign workers among about 150 people in a queue to buy bak kwa at a popular shop in Chinatown. Bak kwa is the local name for honeyed barbecued pork, a traditional delicacy around Chinese New Year.
In its report, the newspaper identified one of the men as Indian national Pasopolgti Sai Babo. The workers said that they had been dropped off at the shop by their employers with instructions to stand in line to purchase the delicacy.
Mr Pasopolgti joined the queue at 6.30am, and finally got his hands on 10kg of bak kwa after eight hours in the queue. ‘My boss told me to come, so I came, cannot argue. I’m very tired,’ said the 42-year-old, who works for a construction company.
A spokesman for Lim Chee Guan said bosses have been sending their workers to buy bak kwa for a few years now.
She added: ‘Some workers come in groups. About eight groups of workers came today.’
One group of eight workers in the queue at 3pm on Tuesday was from construction company Yongnam Holdings.
Foreman Hoe Koon Seng said he had gathered seven workers to queue with him because he needed to buy 50kg of bak kwa for his bosses to give away to business associates.
‘I was not sure how much each person can buy, so I called more workers,’ the 56-year-old said.
— Straits Times, January 18, 2012, Foreign workers roped in to queue for bak kwa, by Ng Kai Ling
Because of high demand, the more popular shops impose a limit on the quantity each customer can buy. At the Lim Chee Guan shop, the ration was 20 kg per head, with each kilogram priced at $50.
Asked if they still needed to go back to work, another Indian construction worker Mokles Ur, 24, said: ‘This is work. We have been queueing since 8am.’
Mr Teo Ang Soon, who works for his family’s construction company, also brought a foreign worker along.
‘I do this every year. I buy about 20kg, so I need someone to help me carry it,’ he said in Mandarin.
TWC2 president, on hearing this news, remarked: “It illustrates how cheap and easily available foreign manpower is that they can be deployed for such a frivolous reason. No wonder productivity is so low.”