Singaporeans should show our appreciation to migrant workers as they are an integral part of society and play an important role at that, said Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan-jin in a blogpost marking International Migrants Day. “They are the workers that build the infrastructure that we enjoy every day and the very homes that we live in. And they do all this, while being away from their loved ones back home.”

He began his blogpost with a reference to a photo exhibition he attended that was organised by the NTUC- affiliated Migrant Workers Centre — the above photo was from there, showing TWC2 treasurer Alex Au (foreground left) having a word with the minister (foreground right).

Mr Tan also revealed that his ministry was planning to amend the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) in 2012. “This will strengthen our enforcement capabilities as well as hold employers and other stakeholders more accountable for the basic employment rights and well-being of migrant workers. We will be consulting with key stakeholders on this, including NGOs.”

The message can be seen at

The Straits Times carried a report about this blog message (Straits Times, December 22, 2011: Bosses, treat your migrant workers fairly). Reporter Lin Wenjian probed the ministry for details of likely amendments to the EFMA, but “the ministry would say only that the review of the Act is under way, and more details will be revealed later.”

TWC2 sent proposals to the ministry mid 2011, a fact that the newspaper highlighted in the current story:

Local migrant workers’ welfare group, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), said it sent a proposal to the ministry in June, detailing the changes it would like to see.

Among them are tougher penalties for employers or employment agents who accept kickbacks from workers, or those who apply for work passes for these workers using false documents.

TWC2’s vice-president, Dr Noorashikin Abdul Rahman, said her group is also calling for the ministry to make it mandatory for employers to give a notice period of up to 30 days to workers before cancelling their work permits.

Currently, companies can cancel a work permit immediately and repatriate workers within seven days of the cancellation. Dr Noorashikin said having this rule in place ensures workers are not forcefully repatriated.

She added: ‘The additional time will also allow them to sort out any outstanding issues they have or to seek alternative employment here.’

TWC2 would also like to see the Act amended to give foreign domestic workers ‘more detailed protection’.

In particular, Dr Noorashikin is calling for a weekly day off, stipulated maximum daily work hours and a formula to calculate overtime pay for the approximately 196,000 maids here.

Currently, the Act states that employers must bear the costs of their maids’ upkeep in Singapore and ensure that they receive adequate rest, among others.

— Straits Times, December 22, 2011: Bosses, treat your migrant workers fairly, by Lin Wenjian

TWC2 intends to initiate a new round of engagement with the ministry in the run up to the finalisation of the amendments.