By Vivek R
“They tell me Singapore is very good,” says Muthusamy Govindarasu. “But cannot throw rubbish and must behave well. If not police fine you.” Govindarasu hails from a small town in Tamil Nadu, India. Having only had a secondary school education, for Govindarasu and many foreign workers like him, Singapore is seen as a land of opportunity. He came here seeking employment that would pay multiple times what he would get paid for the same work done in India. Govindarasu’s experience in Singapore has been very fortuitous.
Govindarasu first heard of Singapore from a friend in India, who promised him a job via an employment agent. Having paid the rupee equivalent of $3,000, he landed a job in an air conditioner ducting factory in 2011. He successfully finished a year of work in Singapore, incident-free and returned home. He got married and started a family. He took a job as a driver for a while, but the pay wasn’t good, so he left his newly wed wife back home and returned to Singapore, this time to a new job as an electrician.
“I work hard so my boss like me”, says Govindarasu. He counts himself as lucky. When his second job ended, he had little difficulty finding a third, also as an electrician.
January 2016, Govindarasu found himself in his fourth contracted job in Singapore, back at Hamptonford Singapore Pte Ltd, the air conditioner ducting factory he used to work in when he first came. He is particularly proud of this: an employer who respected his work ethic and gladly welcomed him back. His monthly salary of $1,200 was good money, easily supporting his wife and two sons back in India.
But it was in this factory that he sustained his injury. He did not realize that his hand had slipped under a large metal material roll. His finger was caught and crushed. The employer was very prompt in helping Govindarasu. “The first aid people bandage my hand and send me to the clinic,” he says. With an X-ray revealing multiple crushed small bones in his middle finger, he was quickly sent to the National University Hospital where he underwent surgery to fix his finger with metal implants. “My company very good, they pay for everything,” he adds.
With such a major injury, Govindarasu is now out of a job, and is awaiting the (long) process of disability assessment and compensation. He has engaged a lawyer who is taking care of his housing needs for the time being. Govindarasu’s meals however, come from TWC2’s Cuff Road Project.
He comes across as a happy and cheerful man. He is among the fortunate few who have been treated fairly after his injury. He feels his needs were well taken care of by his employer. Despite being a minefield for other workers, Govindarasu’s experience of the injury compensation process so far has been smooth.
The accident notwithstanding, Govindarasu counts himself as one of lucky workers in Singapore. When asked if he would return to Singapore, with a wide smile he says, “Yes, I like Singapore.”
I check with my editor how we should angle this story. “His happiness is the angle,” he says. “There are happy stories, there are happy workers, even those who have been injured. Why not tell those stories too?”
We wish every worker who comes to our shores has similar luck.