09 December 2008

Muddy Singapore swallows China workers, part 2

The saga continues. Two more workers had to spend a night in a police lock-up while nobody seems to know what's happened to the first two, arrested last week. And why didn't the Ministry of Manpower prosecute the employer for not paying wages and overtime on time? Full essay.

44 comments:

yuen said...

my own guess is that MOM is not colluding with unscrupulous employers to oppress foreign workers, but is merely complacent - it thinks it is already taking care of such problem cases by putting this chen-tan guy on them, and to his superiors he must have seemed to know his job since he could sprout all those wise sounding sage words, bilingually too.

Once they are onto the real situation, they would take action. But of course, next time some other problem will surprise them again...

Anonymous said...

I agree with Yuen. My guess is also that AK Tan is taking matters into his own hands by sweeping inconveniences under the carpet. I've met a few civil servants who basically don't care about serving the people as civil servants. They want their day to be trouble free, they don't want to have to deal with the difficult job, which is what they're hired to do. Very often when stopped at this level by a self-serving civil servant, there's very little you can do except go to the press if you can be so determined to redress the injustice. I don't care how fast they can move the lines at the immigration, but Singapore is full of such self-serving civil servants who has no interest in what they're really hired to do, which is to serve the people.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

As we know more about this case, a pattern emerges. The state (as represented by civil servants) is quick to arrest and prosecute individuals who overstay. It is however very tardy in prosecuting employers for violating the Employment Act despite multiple complaints by successive batches of workers.

The result is that it has created an uneven playing field, which unscrupulous employers exploit to abuse their workers - who are also handicapped by lack of access to information.

My conclusion in the earlier article still seems valid, even after we have learnt more: The states abets these abuses through its action/inaction.

Anonymous said...

It would not be wise to prosecute the employer because they are working on what would be the pride of Singapore --- the casinos(though Singaporeans are strangely barred from entering the casinos).

Any court cases against the builders/contractors would translate into delays and setbacks which further translates into bad press for the vision of the authorities.

The casinos are pet projects of the Singapore Government and nothing absolutely can be allowed to go wrong. What is the welfare of a few Chinese migrants? In their minds they probably have the idea that there are plenty more where those few came from.

Anonymous said...

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

Note: Quality of the video isn't very good

Anonymous said...

When I first came to know about this story in YB, I was filled with anger that such injustice is allowed to take place in Singapore. I was shocked that a worker's Emploment Pass can be cancelled without his knowledge and was ashamed too that our authority can act without verifying the circumstances leading to his "overstaying".

At least now there's some publicity on TV highlighting such malpractices.

YB's contibutions have brought about positive results.

Hopefully there will be happy endings for these foreign workers.

Anonymous said...

Saw the news last night that the case is being investigated. Hope that they will fix the systems/staff/hooligans to prevent further abuse.

Anonymous said...

If you were to see another update on TV, you can be assured that it would be full of praises on how super efficient the authorities are and how watertight everything is and no one can escape justice.

There would be no mention of Yawning Bread, whatsoever!

All the very best to you, YB.

Sgcynic said...

If anyone in MOM is colluding with the employers, he must be charged. In any case, the director reponsible for fixing the cracks had better get his act together immediately. Else hold him accountable for complacency. It cannot be a case of following procedures to the letter, if they defy common sense and basic justice. Then again, this is sunny Singaporean where procedures replace thinking caps, and chain of command implies push of responsibility and disempowerment.

Anonymous said...

This is not the first case that happened!They are in fact lucky that this news come to light and they may find justice.The employer are inhuman and retribution will come one day not to them but their family.

The said...

/// At 10 December, 2008 18:07 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would not be wise to prosecute the employer because they are working on what would be the pride of Singapore --- the casinos(though Singaporeans are strangely barred from entering the casinos). ///

Anon - strictly not correct - Singaporeans are not barred from entering the casinos. They can enter, provided they paid an entrance fee of $100(?). That makes it even more ironic. My Indonesia maid, the Foreign Talent, is allowed in free of charge, while I, a Singapore citizen, got to pay to get in. Likewise the Foreign Talents such as Bangladeshi construction workers and Filipina nurses can enter freely, while Singaporeans cannot.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

While the mainstream press has covered a bit of the story, they are coming out in a way that leaves with the Ministry of Manpower's reputation intact. But of course... you say.

I will do a wrap-up story when I am back in Sg in a few days. Basically, the men have one by one succumbed to pressures from all over, and have settled for much less than they are entitled to under the law. They have mostly gone back to China. If you had to settle with what they finally got paid, you'd be angry for the rest of your life.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you YB. They will end up settling for less than what they were originally entitled to get by law. What more of the loss of employment opportunities spent while in pursuit of justice? If they were rich they would have gotten compensation for such losses. The workers time wasted by our incompetent civil servants obviously don't count in the eyes of our high and mighty lawmakers and it will continue to be so, because our civil servants have no real interest in redressing the woes of the common people.

yuen said...

I dont think civil servants are as bad as that, and when dealing with cases involving singaporeans, there are rule books that they can follow; if you want to mete out responsibility, it is the more senior officials who failed to anticipate problems and draw up rules beforehand, and the junior officials were merely blind following blind

the foreign worker situation is tricky because the contracts have to look good to meet home country regulations that supposedly protect the workers' interest, but no one has the responsibility to make sure that employers actually follow them, and in fact everyone knows the contracts are only meant to look good; the actual delivery becomes a nasty game of "what I can get away with", and since the events occur in Singapore, the Singapore authorities have no choice but to pick up the reponsibility and have processes to deal with it

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

Your apologetics flies in the face of what AK Tan did. And what his colleague did to trap the workers at the MOM on their employers behalf. Are you living in a different reality or you didn't read the article?

Anonymous said...

Yuen,

blind following blind is also a case of irresponsibility because of a refusal to use common sense and report any failures in the system to their superiors. I understand what you're saying, the superiors are at a greater fault. But it's often the lower ranks who have direct contact with the commoners and know of the loopholes in the system. And if they know and refuse to make an effort to redress it by bringing it up with their superiors, choosing instead to hide behind the follies of their superiors, then it nevertheless makes them ineffective civil servants. We need thinking people who's interested in serving the commoners at every level here. That's what they're paid to do, and it doesn't help that the only contact the commoners have is with the lower-ranking civil servants who are merely following procedures blindly.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for "reporting" this.

I am disgusted but somehow not surprised.

yuen said...

in an ideal world, civil servants would use their own initiative to solve problems not covered by the rulebook, engineers are inventive, people in business are enterprising, gays are not promiscuous, straits are not homophobic, ... most important of all, there is consensus among all the ranks and everyone work together...

in this real world, lower ranks are better off not thinking for themselves and just execute orders; even reporting problems is risky, since you are telling your superiors about their shortcomings; remember what happened to the LTA engineer on the Nicholl Highway project who ended up killing his son before committing suicide - he predicted disaster, and see what it got him

Anonymous said...

Yuen,

citing an unjust case of "that's the way it is" doesn't justify bad behaviour.

Anonymous said...

To Yuen, who said:
"in an ideal world, civil servants would use their own initiative to solve problems not covered by the rulebook, engineers are inventive, people in business are enterprising, gays are not promiscuous, straits are not homophobic, ... most important of all, there is consensus among all the ranks and everyone work together...

in this real world, lower ranks are better off not thinking for themselves and just execute orders; even reporting problems is risky, since you are telling your superiors about their shortcomings; remember what happened to the LTA engineer on the Nicholl Highway project who ended up killing his son before committing suicide - he predicted disaster, and see what it got him".

What you really deserve is to be
of African origin in pre-Emancipation USA and have someone saying the same kind of things to you. The world is a better place exactly because there are people who ignore and detest you. A world with freedoms that you now enjoy but don't deserve.

Anonymous said...

Hi YB,

Sorry this comment is not related to your post. I just noticed that "The Online Citizen" domain has been disabled!!! Wondering why? Appreciate if you could help find out and publish the info for anonymous folks like us to offer help if needed. Thanks! Please delete this non-related post if it clogs up your blog. Thanks.

Happy holidays and 2009!

Missus Purnsey said...

I am so ashamed and shocked to read in Yawning Bread that workers, especially foreign ones can be treated so badly in Singapore.
My guess is that the MOM is basically aware of the lousy job being done by Ms Foo and AK Tan, the uncivil servant, and is turning a blind eye to their horrible abetment and aid of the oppression and abuse of workers.

Yuen: Why are you shielding apathy and turning a blind eye? Or are you a uncivil servant too? I work in government and apathy from one breeds more apathy. Who could not see that the system is terribly heavily weighed towards kicking workers who want fairness out.

If you are a worker in singapore, be very angry that your tax dollars don't seem to be doing anything good..

Missus Purnsey said...

Yawning Bread has helped the course of justice and brought some light into the world with your coverage. Thank you for reporting on this case.

Anonymous said...

To Yuen who said:
"in this real world, lower ranks are better off not thinking for themselves and just execute orders; even reporting problems is risky, since you are telling your superiors about their shortcomings; remember what happened to the LTA engineer on the Nicholl Highway project who ended up killing his son before committing suicide - he predicted disaster, and see what it got him
"

So, what do you think YB is doing?
You are advising him to stop what he is doing and bury his head in the sand?

yuen said...

>freedoms that you now enjoy but don't deserve.

o you think you deserve them? tell us what you have done to deserve your freedoms

demanding that others fight for you, while you hide in anonymity, is just so easy; I at least use my real name and stand by what I say

yuen said...

>what do you think YB is doing?

YB is not doing this in his capacity as a civil servant; he is doing it as a concerned citizen

civil servants have the obligation to follow instructions; where their instructions are inadequate, the fault lies at a higher level

Anonymous said...

To Yuen who said:
"o you think you deserve them? tell us what you have done to deserve your freedoms"

By not doing what you have done - belittle and discourage the efforts
of those who fight for them.

I congratulate your bravery for using "Yuen" to sign-off - ROTFL.

Anonymous said...

To Yuen who said:

"YB is not doing this in his capacity as a civil servant; he is doing it as a concerned citizen

civil servants have the obligation to follow instructions; where their instructions are inadequate, the fault lies at a higher level"

What you said in previous posts contradicted reality. Now you are contradicting yourself. You are now saying AK Tan's colleague was following her superior's orders to trap the workers in MOM? ROTFL.

Anonymous said...

To Yuen who said: "o you think you deserve them? tell us what you have done to deserve your freedoms"

I deserve the freedoms that I have by not giving excuses to those who deny it to others.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

I am going to moderate future comments here more strictly. Things are getting too close to personal. best if we stop commenting any more unless we have something new to say.

yuen said...

>superior's orders to trap the workers in MOM?

I said MOM was mainly guilty of complacency, i.e., lack of preparation with instructions of how to handle the problem

>I deserve the freedoms that I have by not giving excuses to those who deny it to others

so do most singaporeans - they keep carefully hidden and quiet

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

I say let Yawning Bread have the last word:

"We may be afraid to stand with them, but at least for the sake of our own moral integrity if nothing else, we shouldn't disparage or discourage them."

Surely you understand this and how it applies to your postings.

Anonymous said...

To Yuen, who said:

"so do most singaporeans - they keep carefully hidden and quiet"

How are you not "hidden and quiet"?

Unless you call rationalizing the behaviour of these civil servants "speaking up for the downtrodden"!

yuen said...

civil servants, like everyone else, have rights and deserve to be treated fairly; when they have not been given proper instructions, they cannot do proper work;

anyone that gets unfairly blamed is being "downtrodden", and those who make such unfair blames are not much better than authoritarians who ignore the rights of other people; civil servants also use their real names, so they can be identified and be made to take responsibility for what they say/do

(in fact, the idea of someone having to "deserve" his/her freedoms is already authoritarian; I am sure PAP thinks only those who are grateful to the government "deserve" to share the benefits it believes it created, and LKY thinks CSJ does not "deserve" to stand for elections because he is not a good person; freedom means anything not banned by law and everyone has the right to exercise it, without having to do anything to "deserve" it)

Anonymous said...

To Yuen who said:

"civil servants, like everyone else, have rights and deserve to be treated fairly; when they have not been given proper instructions, they cannot do proper work; "

When not given proper instructions
they collude with employers to trap the workers. That's quite a jump.

yuen said...

〉they collude with employers to trap the workers.

is that what YB said? maybe he would like to clarify

I see you no long want to deny my freedom to speak out on the ground I dont "deserve" freedom

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

Did you even read the article?
Quoted from YB. Read the last sentence.

"Wanting to press for a resolution of his dispute with his employer, Xue Hanming, a construction worker originally from Jiangsu, China, called the Ministry of Manpower on 3 December 2008. "Ms Foo [Kim Hui] told me to go down to the ministry the next day," he told me.

On the 4th, he arrived and asked the reception clerk to inform Ms Foo of his presence. He was asked to sit in the waiting area.

After a long while with no sign of Foo, Xue began to wonder if something else was up. Fresh in his mind was the case of a fellow worker, Xue Chengming (no relation), who had been seized by security agents hired by their employer on 2 Dec. More on Xue Chengming's seizure below.

Fearing a similar fate, Xue decided to leave. Moments after stepping out, he saw his manager and a couple of security guards enter the Manpower ministry building. It was a near miss.

The coincidences scream at you. Who would have alerted the employer that Xue Hanming was in the ministry building? Why did Foo never come down to meet someone with whom she herself had asked to come to the ministry, giving the impression that she was prepared to discuss the matter with the complainant? Are government offices meant to be places for resolving problems in good faith and according to the law, or locations for entrapment?"

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

"I see you no long want to deny my freedom to speak out on the ground I dont "deserve" freedom"

Criticizing you is denying you
your freedom to speak?

Critizing a man for his undeserved
wealth is taking his money away?

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

I still say you don't deserve
the freedoms that are denied to others by people whose actions
you rationalize.

Doesn't mean I will work to take them away. It does mean I have a right to criticize your attitude.

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

"(in fact, the idea of someone having to "deserve" his/her freedoms is already authoritarian; I am sure PAP thinks only those who are grateful to the government "deserve" to share the benefits it believes it created, and LKY thinks CSJ does not "deserve" to stand for elections because he is not a good person; freedom means anything not banned by law and everyone has the right to exercise it, without having to do anything to "deserve" it)"

It is only authoritarian if you
enforce it. If you use it as a form
of condemnation it is a perfectly moral and sometimes obligatory thing to do. Bad attitudes need to
be condemned. Saying someone doesn't deserve something because he rationalizes why we should accept the situation is both moral and obligatory.

How difficult is this to understand: if someone has a freedom - others deserve it too - no excuses. If you work to find excuses, I have a moral right to say you don't deserve that freedom.

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

And I see you are no longer making
an issue about me being anonymous
and you being bravely un-anonymous by revealing yourself to be "Yuen".

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

Saying you don't deserve a freedom
is not denying to you. It is applying the same logic to you as
you have done to others. Foreign
workers are denied certain freedoms. I say no excuses - they deserve it. You look for rationalizations. I say the same rationalizations should apply to you too for your freedoms.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Comments are now closed. I will only make one exception, if Yuen wishes to make one last reply.

yuen said...

first a short observation: I find authoritarian attitudes in both camps, and the current discussion illustrates that

YB's part 4 is out; decide for yourself whether you still believe MOM ordered its officials to "collude" with employers, or it was a case of complacency, not anticipating problems and having the right procedures in place, causing a number of workers to be victimized till the problems blew up

about anonymity: do some homework; try clicking on "yuen" and see where it leads