Left: Alam Monzurul. Right: Foreign workers and volunteers at TWC2’s meal station

My interview with Monzurul was on the same day as my interview with Kathikayan (see earlier story Two injured workers — one unhappy, the other asked to fetch vegetables), but what a difference in tenor. Where Kathikayan was depressed and helpless, Monzurul, despite having a serious injury too, was cheerful and confident.

By TWC2 volunteer Lloyd C, based on an interview in December 2019

As Kathikayan leaves, Alam Monzurul mischievously slips into the vacated seat, with a grin.

“What’s the problem?” Alex asks by way of greeting. Alex is the more experienced volunteer introducing cases and their stories to me.

“No problem,” Monzurul says. He seems to know Alex from some time back, and is just wanting to chat a bit, which they do, about nothing in particular.

Like Kathikayan, Monzurul doesn’t come to TWC2’s meal station often. He too stays quite far away in his company dormitory. It’s when he gets a bit bored that he comes to Little India to catch up with friends and enjoy a free TWC2 meal. Alex teases him about how spiffy he looks, as if he’s come to town to woo the girl of his dreams.

However, listening in on friendly banter doesn’t reveal to me what Monzurul’s case is about, so I have to ask a direct question.

“Injury case,” Monzurul replies.

Five minutes of clarification later, I understand that although his case has been taking a long time, it seems to be going smoothly.

“And he’s a lucky chap,” adds Alex. “He’s had a good run in the job before the accident.”

Prior to the accident in September 2018, Monzurul had spent nearly five years with the same boss. Midway there was a change in the company so, in a formal sense, he had been with T.G. Engineering Pte Ltd for only a year before he slipped and fell from an oily platform, breaking his hip.

Although classed as a construction worker, Monzurul’s workplace was a factory.

“Making power capacitors,” explains Monzurul.

When Monzurul joined the (predecessor) company about four or five years ago, his starting basic salary was $1,200 a month. There was some overtime, and he was properly paid for it. Over the next few years, he must have been a good worker, and his boss must have observed that too. Unlike many foreign construction workers in Singapore whose salary hardly increases over time, Monzurul enjoyed salary increments annually, with his pay going up by $100 or $200 at a time.

Monzurul also went for a course upgrading his skills as an electrical technician. He emerged with a Core-Trade Certificate which should stand him in good stead for future employment.

I ask who paid for the course.

“Company pay,” he says. Sounds like a good employer, again.

Alex bursts the bubble somewhat. “The company also benefits from getting him CoreTrade-certified,” he tells me. Employers pay a lower foreign worker levy and the worker is able to work in Singapore for a longer number of years (see this page at Ministry of Manpower website).

Then the accident happened and for a while, Monzurul was worried what his future might hold.

But he received treatment and has recovered as well as could be expected. More recently, an offer of compensation was made to him for the permanent disability the accident left him — though whatever disability it is, it’s not immediately visible. He is happy with the offer and intends to accept it. Once paid, he will be going home.

When we see the daily parade of cases at TWC2, it is easy to think that all employers are bad but Monzurul’s story reminds us it is not so. Employers run the gamut from untrustworthy to fair, from grudging to generous. T G Engineering, for example, sounds like a good employer.

And it makes a huge difference to workers. Despite a serious injury that has taken a year to recover from, Monzurul remains in good spirits, with a positive outlook on life.