Where forth art thou?: Encouraging Entrepreneurship: At what cost?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Encouraging Entrepreneurship: At what cost?

The following email from a reader highlights what local companies are currently doing to shed responsibility and cut costs and how they are actually getting away with it.

"Dear Sir,

This happened a few days back. My sister has a good friend whom works at a well-known clubhouse. He is a Filipino student who is on training pass. She described him as cheerful and honest guy.

Although he was diagnosed with tuberculosis just a couple of days back, he has been coughing since 2 months ago. But he was not able to go to the doctor as he had insufficient funds. This is because, out of how much he receives monthly, approximately 60% of it goes to the agency. It’s also a norm that when these people come out of their country to work, they will send back money to their families.

After learning of his condition, instead of sending him for the required treatment, both his employer and recruitment agency immediately made arrangements for him to be sent back to Philippines. Lucky for him, some kind soul have sent the sick boy to hospital where she has settled his initial medical fees. He is very grateful as now he sleeps in a hospital bed which is not infested with bed bugs.

I do not understand the purpose of the agency taking 60% cut from their salary. For example, if the student’s are receiving $1000 from the employer, it means the agency is taking $600 monthly from them. From what I understand, the agency did look and provide lodging for these students, but, imagine squeezing 16 individuals into a HDB rented flat at Ang Mo Kio. The agent also pays for their air ticket to and fro, however, they are not paying for the poor boy’s air ticket back as according to them, he has breach his contract, just because he is hospitalized.

Till now, his friends, are still looking for ways to make the employers take responsibility for his medical bills instead of sending him back to his country without any treatment. In fact, some of the club members who areaware of what has happened has requested for a meeting with GM of the club house today, hoping that they will be able to pressurize the employers to take responsibility.

I called up MOM yesterday, to find out what are the protection laws for these kids. In fact, I called them twice, leaving my number. Despite of their promise that they will place my case as urgent and get back to me latest by the end of the day, which was yesterday, I have yet to hear from them. But from what I have seen online, there isn't much information. Either it represents the inefficiency of the MOM or they are not able to find any information I requested. I do believed that there is a loophole in the system, therefore employers prefer to employ foreigners on training passes as they have lesser responsibilities to fulfill.

This makes me wonder; there so many protection laws for our domestic helpers, most probably they do contribute to Singapore's economy as both parents can come out to work. And maybe, the Woman’s Right Group is more vocal. There are also many protection rules for foreign students, because the government wants to established Singapore as a learning hub. How about our other foreign workers? Are they receiving the same kind of attention and care? And even if there are, who is checking on the employers and recruitment agency.

Two day’s back, New Paper spoke about a man who lost all his money due to the irresponsibility of the recruitment agency. I also do know of a few private companies who prefer to employ foreigners. Quoting my previous boss “They are cheaper, don't ask for bonuses, and are willing to work overtime. In fact, I don't have to give them many benefits either.”

Also, living at HDB flats, I have also seen some of the Bangladesh workers in “perilous” situation where they walked around on our sloping roofs, at least 11-stories tall, or perched outside our windows sometimes without safety devices. Just a couple of weeks ago, I saw one worker standing along the narrow 3rd storey balcony, doing some repainting job.

I am not sure what can be done, but I do hope you could help to highlight the plight of these foreign workers in your blog.

Much appreciated



Anonymous said...

Daphne, it might be a good idea to get your issue to be known if you send a letter to the forum in The Straits Times.

daphne said...

Thanks, I have already written to the forum yesterday. Actually, there are many news about abuse of foreign workers. I believe the media have a number of reports regarding it.

I guess the main issue is that no one has actually deal with the root of the problems; lack of protection regulations from MOM and lack of monitoring of the recruitment agencies.

Do help to spread the news to more people. Thanks