This article was written by TWC2 volunteer Meera Rajah in October 2014. For unclear reasons we never published it; perhaps it was simply overlooked. It’s been five years, but almost everything she writes about is still the case today.
That said, there have been some changes in the five years since. For example, itemised payslips have become mandatory in law, a change that TWC2 would argue is traceable to our frequent mention of this need over the past ten years. Even so, this law is flouted quite often.
In her paper, Meera does a masterly survey of the inequalities inherent in the employer-employee relationship with respect to migrant workers in Singapore. Citing cases she came across while volunteering with TWC2, she shows how these imbalances manifest in workers’ lived experiences.
What we might call the ‘agreemental’ aspect of contract is not as prevalent in employment as it is in commercial relationships . There is often an asymmetrical relationship characterised by an inherent inequality of bargaining power. In reality, the worker, particularly when unskilled, is compelled by his economic circumstances to accept terms on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis .