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Like most people, migrant workers focus on working for a better life, and do not go about expecting misfortune to befall them. So, when it does, whether in the form of an injury, tardy salary payments or abusive employer, it often catches them unprepared. Many have no idea what their rights are, or what avenues of help are available.
An important part of Transient Workers Count Too’s assistance to migrant workers springs from the advice and case follow-up provided by our social workers and trained volunteers. This part of our programme is named “Social Worker Always There”, or SWAT for short. Common questions workers bring to us include:
“I haven’t been paid for more than three months; what remedies are available?”
“I was injured this morning and the pain is getting worse, but my supervisor says to rest in the dormitory. He is not sending me to a hospital. What should I do?”
“I was hired as a welder, but my employer wants me to work for another company as a general worker. Is this legal?”
Or a domestic worker might call and say to us:
“My employer keeps shouting at me and burned me with a cigarette butt a few times, and I can’t stand it any more. I have asked to resign, but she refuses to release me. What can I do?”
To have somebody give a prompt and helpful answer to such cries for help makes a huge difference to workers.
Sometimes, members of the public ask how many cases we handle. It is not possible to reduce the answer to a simple number because the word ‘case’ can mean different things to different people. Our statistics are provided in our annual Direct Services Report, and they generally employ a three-tiered classification:
1. Information and referral
3. Case management.
If you’re interested in how these terms are defined, please read on.
This represents the first contact, usually by phone (sometimes as walk-ins), and we have a brief discussion of the problems the client is facing. We provide information and explain the options available to him (or her). We also lay out the pros and cons of each option. If the case is such that the worker may need the help of another agency, we tell him or her where to go. Typically, the client wants to think about his options first, or is able to go to that other agency on his own to seek help.
Intervention is the term we use to describe a situation where TWC2 extends help to a client to a degree greater than a brief conversation (as in I&R). Intervention comes in various forms, e.g.
Generally, intervention is resource-sensitive. Money, time, and the availability of volunteers set limits on what we can do.
When a social worker or trained volunteer tracks a case and spends several sessions advising a worker, it constitutes a managed case. We do this for cases that are complicated or if they are up against unreasonable employers or an intractable bureaucracy. With medical cases, we help communicate with doctors to better understand the prognosis or needed treatment, and explain the same to workers. Case management is very resource-intensive and the needs far exceed our means. But having a social worker monitor a case ensures that all options are explored and resolved as expeditiously as possible.