The Cuff Road Food Programme is Transient Workers Count Too’s signature project. Not only does it address a critical need among workers who have been abandoned and left destitute, it offers an important contact point between the organisation and those in need of help. Workers not only get a hot meal, they get a consultation about their cases and a friendly ear.
In 2012, we served over a hundred thousand meals — 101,819 to be exact — making a total of 362,167 meals since the project began in March 2008.
The first chart shows the number of meals TWC2 served each week through 2012. The lowest week was the fifth week of July when we served 1,513 meals. The highest was the second week of June, with 2,257 meals. We averaged 1,958 meals a week.
By Type of Case
The next chart shows the cases each month by type.
About 70 percent of the cases (and they are virtually all men) that come to us at Transient Workers Count Too’s free meals programme come with one or more injuries. Almost all these injuries were sustained at work. A small number would have been the result of a traffic accident while the men were on board a company vehicle ferrying the workers to or from work. Under Singapore law, such injuries are considered to be in the same class as workplace injuries.
The second most common category (about 24 percent) is broadly described as “Company cases”, a shorthand that TWC2 uses to indicate that the source of a worker’s difficulty is the behaviour of his employer. Within this term there is considerable variety, including:
- salaries unpaid (most common);
- dishing out “loans” instead of wages, so that employers can recall the loans later;
- deductions for real and imaginary things:
- clawback of money for levies, agent fees:
- workers not assigned any work, and then not paid for those days;
- illegally farming workers out to other employers;
- forged or forced signatures on documents;
- declaring bankruptcy and closing down without settling arrears in salaries;
- not paying the government levy, forcing MOM to cancel the work permit;
- work permit scams (bringing in a worker on promise of a job, collecting fees from him, and then leaving him high and dry).
The length of the above list simply illustrates the wretched fact that TWC2 has seen companies use every which way to cheat.
How to read the above chart? The tall bar for each month is the total number of men registered to eat with us for that month. Most of them are continuing cases who had registered in a previous month. The short bar are the new cases who showed up for the first time during that month. The numbers in the graph are also shown in the table below:
The total of the short bars (“new participants”) add up to reveal the total number of cases — 2,165 — we saw at the Cuff Road Project in 2012.
A small proportion of men are classed as “Overstay” cases — guys who overstay their social visit (tourist) passes to work. Typically, they come to us after they have served their prison time (if they overstay by more than 90 days they are also caned) and while trying to raise money to get an airticket home. There is little that TWC2 can do for them, but we feed them out of humanitarian concern.
How long since their injury?
In the case of injured workers, each month we record how long it has been since their injury. Because we re-register all participants for meal cards each month, the same man may appear over several bars (months). The bars should not be totalled together; it wouldn’t make any sense.
Do note however, that the Y-axis does not go down to zero in the chart below:
What the pattern in the above chart shows is that in a typical month,
- about 50 to 80 injured men who get that month’s meal card from us would have been waiting at least 12 months since his injury. They make up about 14% of the injured cases registered each month;
- at the other end of the scale those whose injuries are less than 6 months old make up about 56% of the cases registered each month.
The Ministry of Manpower recently said that about 80 percent of injury cases are closed within three months. This figure contrasts with our data. While it is probably true that TWC2 tends to see the more serious cases, the fact remains that at any given time, there are 50 to 80 men with us at the Cuff Road Project who have been stuck in Singapore for more than a year on account of their injuries.
The point worth considering is that the use of averages or “majority” often leads us to mentally dismiss the extreme cases — yet these are the ones suffering the most.
A discussion of snapshot data from a specific period (20 October 2012 to 20 November 2012) can be found at Who eats at the Cuff Road Project and why.