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Whilst the Cuff Road Food Programme is TWC2’s signature project, we also provide assistance to workers in other areas of need. The three most important, grouped under the Compassion and Relief for Emergencies (CARE) Fund are:
Under the law, employers of foreign workers are required to provide necessary medical care, suitable accommodation (including meals), and medical leave wages when an employee is medically unfit for work (subject to conditions and limits). The reality however is that some employers shirk their responsibilities. Complaints lodged with the Ministry of Manpower can take a long time to be investigated. In the meantime, workers are left with no money, occasionally no medical care and often nowhere to stay.
Nor are workers allowed, except with the ministry’s permission, to take on other jobs. Those who have suffered injuries are particularly vulnerable. They need urgent medical or surgical assistance. Injuries or infections may need to be treated promptly, otherwise they can get worse and pose a risk to life.
A big part of our Care Fund goes to
The latter case arises when, as happens from time to time, an employer may delay providing a payment guarantee that the hospital may ask for, even when it is his legal duty to do provide one. The injured worker’s suffering (for lack of treatment) may be prolonged as a result. TWC2 provides an advance to the worker so that he can pay the hospital to get the procedure done. With MOM’s help, the worker should eventually be able to get reimbursement from his employer, and he can then reimburse TWC2.
Road to Recovery (R2R) is a team of volunteers who accompany workers to hospital appointments, and along the way, may help pay minor medical costs. For example, there is a gap in the law where outpatient prescriptions are omitted from employers’ insurance scope. R2R helps pay for the needed medication.
R2R support is particularly appreciated by workers who have suffered leg injuries and find it difficult to get to hospital for follow-up appointments on their own, and by workers who have to go for day surgery. Not only is our presence helpful when they are anxious, we make sure that post-anaesthesia, they make it home safely.
Workers whose injuries are relatively minor, or their recovery advanced, do not need R2R support. However, because they are not allowed to work, making their way to hospital for follow-up appointments or occupational therapy is a financial problem. They simply don’t have money for transport.
TWC2’s FareGo programme issues topped-up EZ-Link cards to workers to enable them to take the bus or metro. Strict qualifying criteria are applied: Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they are not allowed to work, that they have an upcoming medical appointment and that a stipulated exclusion period (since the last top-up) has passed.
Under the law, employers are required to continue to house their former employees till the case is completed and they go home. In reality, workers — in the hundreds and maybe thousands — find it impossible to stay on in company quarters. They report a climate of intimidation and constant fear that the company would send in strong-armed repatriation agents in the middle of the night, seizing them and bundling them off to the airport against their will. These fears are not unfounded. TWC2 has heard many first-hand reports of such repatriation tactics. In any event, it is entirely conceivable that some companies may try all means to avoid the cost of housing their workers by making it difficult for them to stay on.
Workers who flee company accommodation may borrow money from friends and relatives to rent a bunk space. But there are some with neither willing friends or relatives in Singapore.
Project Roof helps subsidise their rent. The men find their own accommodation — typically a bunk in a crowded tenement in Little India — and, subject to eligibility criteria and financial limits set out in our programme, we help pay for it.
It goes without saying that there are far more workers in need of such assistance than we can provide. Consequently, we apply strict criteria, chief of which is the severity of a worker’s injury. Top of the queue would be those who have recently had major surgery, or have suffered a serious injury compromising his mobility and ability to help himself.