Transient Workers Count Too
Monday, March 12, 2012
Media Release

For immediate release

TWC2 glad that Tanjong Pagar MP has raised issue of abandoned injured workers; invites reporters to 4th anniversary of our free meals programme

The issue that Ms Indranee Rajah (PAP Tanjong Pagar) brought up in parliament, in relation to injured foreign workers having to wait a long time to get resolution of their cases, is indeed a common and longstanding one, as she pointed out. In the meantime, most of the workers would have been terminated from their jobs, and left with no means of support or accommodation.

Say Alex Au, treasurer: “Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) has been highlighting this to the Ministry of Manpower for some years, but except for the occasional case where we ask the ministry to pay particular attention to, which then get expedited, further efforts are needed to address the issue systemically.

“We are therefore grateful to Ms Rajah for taking the time to speak to workers in her Silat area and raising this matter in parliament.”

There are three crucial aspects of the issue:

1. Injured workers have difficulty getting timely treatment, mostly because employers tend to be in denial mode, or drag their feet in providing the necessary letters of guarantee. “TWC2 has proposed that all Work Permit holders be issued a medical card tenable at any polyclinic or public hospital and backed by the medical insurance that employers are already required to take up,” says Au. “Workers should not need to ask their employers for permission or a letter of guarantee each time they want to access medical services. Such medical insurance should remain valid for as long as the worker remains in Singapore, not only until terminated from the job.”

2. A more effective scheme is needed to ensure a living allowance while the worker is under treatment or waiting for resolution of his Workman’s Injury Compensation. Either the employer should remain liable to pay a prescribed sum or additional insurance should be mandated to provide for a period of income loss.

3. Injured workers need accommodation facilities suitable for their condition, especially as some are not fully mobile, so that they can have a speedy recovery in a clean environment. Noted Debbie Fordyce, an executive committee member of TWC2 who has worked with many such workers: “They should also be safe from repatriation agents ever ready to seize workers too ill to resist.” Either MOM should run such a dormitory or should give non-profit organisations grants to run them.

Cuff Road Project – 4th anniversary

That this problem of workers abandoned by employers and left destitute is a longstanding one can be seen from the fact that the free meals programme run by TWC2 — called the Cuff Road Project — is going to mark its fourth anniversary this Thursday (15 March 2012).

Says John Gee, immediate past president: “It’s good that Ms Rajah has spoken up, but the problem is not new. TWC2 has been feeding these men for four years already.”

Last year, a total of 1,458 workers registered themselves under this program to receive free food. More than half of them (807) had been injured. Even this number is a fraction of the total needy, out-of-work workers in Singapore, based on a casual mention by the Ministry of Manpower that they handled over 12,000 injury claims in the same period.

“On average, injured workers who registered for our free meals programme stay with us for about 6 months; about 15 per cent stay over 12 months,” notes Debbie Fordyce. “MOM may find that the average length of stay after an accident is only three months, which only shows that it is the more serious cases that are particularly ill-served by the system and who come to us for help.”

By the end of 2011, TWC2 had served over 260,000 meals.

On Thursday, 15 March, we will have a small cake-cutting ceremony to mark the anniversary. Goodie bags contributed by donors will be distributed to every worker who comes in that evening for a meal.

Reporters and photo-journalists are welcome to be present.