Hired as scaffolder, safety-trained as painter, made to work as grinder

By Koh Jie Min, based on an interview in June 2018 Balal comes across as soft spoken when I meet him for this interview. He gives me a wry smile as he points to two long, white scars on his fingers, and recounts his tale. It’s a not unheard-of story: Leaving his wife and two...

For men from a poor country, choice is a mirage

In June 2018, TWC2 volunteer Alston Ng went around asking Bangladeshi workers, “Why did you choose to come to Singapore to work?” The words “neoliberal capitalism” are rarely heard in Singapore, but its message has nonetheless found a faithful following among Singaporeans. Markets are best optimised when left to run by itself, because the exercise...

The thing that most irks him? “MOM take my passport”

By Ng Zuxiang, based on an interview in July 2018 You have a carefully trimmed goatee. You are 26 years old. You have come from Bangladesh to Singapore as the job opportunities and pay here would likely be better than at home. You came to earn a living on which your family back home can...

Policy brief 2018, no. 3: Require standard employment contracts

In the third of our policy briefs for 2018, Transient Workers Count Too recommends that it should be mandatory for work permit holders to first sign a Standard Employment Contract (SEC) even before a work permit application is made. The SEC should set out all the key employment terms, and these should be in accordance...

Listen as peeved MOM officer flames out in phone call

A Bangladeshi worker Rimon (not his real name) received this phone call (audio below) from a case officer of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). As you will hear, the officer was telling Rimon off for not returning to the company dormitory as earlier instructed. As penalty for disobedience, Rimon would be repatriated forthwith. The tone...

“Too late, no claim”. Miah Uzzah heads home with five years of losses

By Grace Chua, based on an interview in June 2018 Miah Md Uzzal is heading home. In the previous few weeks, he was on a mission to seek compensation for the salary underpayment he suffered for five years. Sitting at one of the restaurants that provide TWC2’s clients with free meals, Miah appears easy-going and...

Akther, absent doctor and absent rights

By Zhan Nanxin, based on an interview in April 2018 Akther, a young looking construction worker, sits down at TWC2’s free meals station for the first time, with a serious looking injury. Like many, Akther came from Bangladesh to Singapore in hope of being able to remit money back home to support his family –...

Work five months, fight salary case ten months

By Cheryl Lim, based on an interview in May 2018 With his jaw tightly clenched throughout our entire one-hour conversation, 41-year-old construction worker Rahman Habibur, repeatedly asks me, “Can you get back my money? You can help?” “We will try our best,” I reply. With his hand on the official court order he brought to...

Sorowar goes home with new $35,000 ‘helmet’

Before going home on 18 July 2018, Paik Sorowar went around to thank every volunteer and staff member of TWC2 who had helped him in any way big or small. He may see Transient Workers Count Too as the ones who gave him a brand new skull implant, but it’s really the Lighthouse Club Singapore...

Where the silver lining ends: Safiar’s hopes of avoiding further indebtedness thwarted by bureaucratic opacity

By Alston Ng based on an interview in June 2018 According to a Bloomberg article (footnote 1) dated to Jan 2017, Singaporeans face the shortest unemployment period in the world, spending a median duration of merely two months before finding new jobs. No doubt, such a short transition period indicates market resilience and points to...