05 December 2008

Muddy Singapore swallows China workers

Here's a specific case of six workers from China who've become extremely unhappy about the Singapore government. Their wages have not been paid for 3 months, but instead of helping them with their case, various government departments have abetted their employer's attempts to cheat, rob and kidnap them. Full essay.


Weiye said...

This is ridiculous. Shouldn't a formal police report be lodged against the employer, and formal complaint be lodged against MOM and SPF? If it is all true, I am ashamed of this country.

Anonymous said...

The allegory-loving Mr.Chen of the MoM, coupled with the note that he was to take an exam, reminded me of that idea that Singaporean elites should be trained in aspects of Chinese Culture in order to do business with the PRC. It got me thinking: this is the end result you are going to get.

Anonymous said...

This is unbelievable! It is a great shame to Singapore. I feel shameful being a Singaporean because our systems are clearly not working if these were true.

I am very VERY ANGRRRYYY !!!

Peel said...

I am very disturbed by this entry. We are always regaled with tales of how efficient, upright and honest our civil servants are. We have been indoctrinated into thinking that obstructionist, corrupt government agencies only exist in countries like China. If what you wrote is true, then this is a mere façade concealing the rottenness in our public bodies.

You mentioned that a New Paper reporter was also present. Can we them to write a full expose that would hopefully trigger an uproar and force the MOM to account for its practices? Or will this be swept under the carpet?

Twentyfour_sucks said...

Yes, I feel very angry. It's a shame that the Singapore government lets such things happen.

yuen said...

instead of appealing to people's sense of justice, appeal to their self interest - if it is very easy to exploit foreign workers, employers would have even less interest to employ local ones, something the labour organizations might want to ponder

almost all the foreign worker contracts have clauses allowing employers to make salary deductions for air fare etc, and the recruiting agents in China almost always give a more rosy picture than the workers later see; I doubt however my observations would help anyone

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Yuen has a very good point. So long as employers in Singapore can get away with paying foreign workers much less than even contractually agreed, thus lowering the cost of hiring foreigners, they will have no incentive to hire Singaporeans.

It is therefore in the self-interest of Singaporeans to demand that foreign workers get a fair deal, and that our govt should not be complicit in such tactics.

Anonymous said...

I am angry.

My idealism, spawning from Confucious words "Ren Zhi Chu, Xing Ben Shan" - "Man from Birth, Are naturally Kind", just died.

Hatred, violence, guns - they don't kill, but indifference does.

Something is very wrong and it's not just our government, our ministries or our policies - It's Singporeans ourselves. Our daily recital of the Singapore pledge has done nothing for our sense of justice and equality, only the parts about prosperity and progress sticks in our head, at the expense of everything/everyone else.

A year ago, I was thinking of quitting Singapore, but what my neighbor told me brought me back to my senses.

- The Singapore today, is not just the effort of the PAP government. It is also the efforts, toils and snares of our fathers and fore-fathers. Singapore belongs to us, and it is our responsibility, not just to the past generation, but also to future generations, to take it back!

Tan said...

I was previously in an industry linked to the construction industry and have heard of such stories. It was usually about rogue agents who gave false promises of jobs. I thought that these workers can get some justice through our MOM which is supposed to protect workers.

But what you have written in detail shocks me! Not only has things not improved, they have worsen with civil servants being involved in the abuse.

To civil servants working in related departments, if you can't handle the foreign workers objectively, ask to transfer to other departments.

Singapore is fast becoming a lawless country. Legalised corruption, state sanctioned injustices, unparalleled greed. I won't feel so heart pained to see my country go down the drain if not for the beliefs that I have been inculcated with. Honesty, righteousness, empathy, justice seem to be slowly phased out of this country.

Alan Wong said...

Our MOM can really do wonders when it comes to Employer's rights.

Going through these workers' ordeal, I would have thought we Singaporeans are now living in a small province of China.

And I thought the MOM was supposed to look after the workers' interests. So what we are witnessing now appears to be official intervention on behalf of abusive employers.

What a shame for these MOM officials to act in tandem with these Chinese Contractors.

Do I smell anything fishy behind the scenes ?

Chee Wai Lee said...

This reminds me of something Mr Siew Kum Hong brought up in Parliament recently:


Ever since I've discovered the horrendous conditions under which domestic help is brought into Singapore, I've started to feel as if the entire labor system in place really does not care about blue-collar foreign labor at all. All it seems to care about are the numbers. I am very troubled by this.

We seriously need to change this official mindset. Can someone see if Mr. Siew (or any other MP) would like to bring this up in parliament?

HanSolo said...

You're just reporting one side of the story.

The mainland Chinese have a flair for exaggeration, do take their stories with a pinch of salt. I do believe there's some unfair treatment, but I doubt the extent.

Have you made any attempts to corroborate their grievances?

Anonymous said...

Imagine the injustice that has been going on !!!!

The ministry of manpower and police must be asked to account for their actions.

No more covering up, no more PR, no more "let's move on !".

Journalists with a sense of conscience must follow up on these incidents.

Anonymous said...

Great article, Alex. If any part of the story involving inappropriate govt collusion with the employers is true, it is a scandal. I wonder if we will ever see this in the mainstream media.

We don't have to sit here and feel powerless. Be outraged. We can do something. I've just emailed MoM, ICA and Reach with a link to this report, demanding answers. I urge others to do the same. (strangely, there seems no way to email either the police or MHA).

Anonymous said...

Another for the 3 monkeys in Singapore.
See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing.
But by all means let the money flow.

Anonymous said...

Han Solo, you are a fucking idiot. I know of people who are handling this case now from the ground level, and those grievances HAVE BEEN CORROBORATED. The fact is, Singapore IS screwing these workers. IS this something so new to you?

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Things being what they are in Singapore, I am personally pessimistic that this particular case will be resolved with justice.

However, I have collected the contact addresses and home phone numbers of the key China workers, so that even if they are sent back to China, foreign reporters can reach them and follow up the story. Of course, I will need proper news organisation credentials, because I shouldn't give out home addresses and phone numbers to just anyone.

Anonymous said...

WTF?! This is extremely shameful.

Anonymous said...

great investigative journalism. ThANKS ALEX.

Tan said...

Hans Solo, I don't like the mass import of foreign workers as much you. You should aim your dislike at the government policies.

However once they are already here, we should treat them as proper human beings.

HanSolo said...

Wow.. Anonymous comments claiming that all these are true just ain't that convincing.

I can simply say, "hey I know people PERSONALLY involved in this case and the workers are LYING!"

Again, I doubt parts of their stories especially about this Mr Chen spouting Chinese allegories.

Alex, have you corroborated these complaints with other parties? You should collect stronger evidence before involving foreign media, knowing how touchy PAP is.

Anonymous said...


Gene said...

Alex, would you please let Hansolo know where you got this from, just to put him in his place?

Dear Hansolo, of course you demand to be shown proof. But do you honestly think that that can be done without comproising the position of those who are involved and the workers? More will be revealed in time to come, probably in the foreign media, since we all know what the States Times would say.

And you give Alex too little credit. If this was all just one-sided, do you honestly think that he would just write an entry that is potentially defamatory? Seriously, use the grey cells a little more, will ya?

MOM Insider said...

Don't be naive to think that Yawning Bread is naive. There are at least 4 reporters from other local news agencies that I know of who have contacted or are trying to contact the employer of these workers and we definitely have heard the employer's side of the story. It might be on Channel 8 news tonight and in the mainstream papers soon. As for Mr Chen's Chinese allegories, there were over 5 to 12 witnesses in the room when he spouted them at the various meetings.

Anonymous said...

What can we do as a Singaporean? We feel sad for the workers, of course, but can we do anything about it? It's the government's responsibility to treat foreign workers fairly. And bear in mind that the mainstream newspaper will not cover this kind of stories. What can we do?

Teck Soon said...

I see nothing wrong with your comments. I believe Alex's story, but I think a healthy amount of questioning and doubt is always appropriate. In general, I think Singaporeans should be more skeptical of stories in the news - online or in print, especially those emanating from government press releases. If more Singaporeans demanded detailed accountability of the local print media, journalism would improve. In fact, paid newspaper journals should be held to a much higher standard than Alex, yet when I read his blog entries, I feel they are more trustworthy. Anyway, bravo for being critical!

Anonymous said...

In answer to anonymous on 07 December, 2008 10:04.
"What can we do as a Singaporean? ... It's the government's responsibility to treat foreign workers fairly."

We can vote in more alternative political parties to serve as check-and-balance in the workings of the government. An instituted system of check-and-balance (e.g. real 1st world democracies like USA, Australia, Netherlands) is more reliable for the future of our nation. The PAP self-check has a track record of failing, e.g. MSK, TC's sinking fund, ShinCorp, etc. We may have to accept less efficiency in exchange for more effectiveness. Afterall, doing the wrong things fast can lead one further downhill.

With foreign workers unfairly bullied, how would the employers treat Singaporean workers? Is the claim "you're not competitive enough" really an euphemism for "you're not willing to be an abused worker"?

Anonymous said...

"We feel sad for the workers, of course, but can we do anything about it?" 10:04

If we don't find a way to help our foreign workers, more local workers will likely be made worse off - more displacements by even cheaper foreign workers, lower wages and benefits for the locals. Higher skilled jobs with higher wages for them once they upgrade their skills, we might say ... hmmm but there's already a backlog of middle management older than 45yrs we displaced 5 or more yrs ago. What shall we do there?

Anonymous said...

I would also like to know what we can do about it. Reading the article makes me very angry. Seems that sg has sunk lower and lower.

Anonymous said...

I really hope justice will be served in the case of these foreign workers.

What MOM is doing is highly immoral.

I hope that that "chen" guy will be fired or something. This is not the behavior I would expect from a civil servant. Clearly, he is siding with with employer. Why would he do that? Is it in his interest to do that? If yes, what are those interests?

That's what happens when the government and Big money get too close.

thank-you alex for this eye-opening article.

I am angry and scandalized.

Anonymous said...

Its a dog eat dog world in China. Clearly, the labor agent & employer in Spore are both China citizens, so they bring their barbaric labor practises to Spore which comprises ill treatment of their own China laborers, disregard for Spore rules & regulations.

MOM & other govt bodies must have seen their fair share of rogue employers & labor agents to the extent that they are sick & tired of dealing with China's way of meting out justice practised among its own citizens. You have 2 different laws existing here, one operating in a microsome teleported China environment within Spore & the larger Spore rules & regulation which the China employers & labor agents by & large ignore.

So that's is the situation that has arisen in these labor intensive jobs.

Chee said...

I do not wish to walk around Singapore, looking at buildings, and wondering how many foreign workers served in bondage and suffered to work them without fair payment.

This shouldn't happen... not here in Singapore.

Where are our laws?

And why did Mr. Ye, the police officer ask him not to go to the police station?

Anonymous said...

Channel U did a news story on these workers. You can watch it @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZsMb5W7xQA

Anonymous said...

This is terrible and I am truly shocked. I'm sorry to have read this late! Alex, do you know what's the situation now?

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Random character - please see my comment appended (same day, same time) to the Part 2 article.

Anonymous said...

Do you think there are gahment officials "working" with these dodgy foreign subcontrators? I think the CDAC or anti-corruption bureau should investigate civil servants and ppl like Ms Foo or her bosses.

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