Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The underlying cause of Little India Riot

I have given my comment to Chinese Asia Week (亚洲周刊) on the underlying cause of Little India Riot just a couple of days after it happened. It was published almost in complete with regard to what I have said to the journalist. They get more angry when New York Times and Washington Times picked up the story.

Apparently what I have said in this report has caused great unhappiness to PAP ministers and that is the main reason for the VIP harassment I get at the immigration when I flew back to Singapore in mid-January. Apart of that, PAP ministers have responded to my comments on my Facebook by visiting the dormitory when I criticised them of not understanding the ground before they made comments about there is no problem of  low wage and poor accommodation for our migrant workers. Of course the minister later visited a BETTER dormitory instead of those make shift container-dormitory.

The Manpower Minister, during the parliamentary sitting, then proclaimed that there is no modern slavery in Singapore, criticising people like me for spreading untruth.He put up "facts" or "statistics" and such to make his point.

Let me run through briefly what I thought were interesting:

1) This is no ordinary riot. In most riots happening in the world, especially those "spontaneous" ones, rioters will attack all kinds of things, private properties, looting shops, overturning private cars and burn it. But WHY in this Little India Riot those rioters only focus on police cars, ambulances and SCDF vehicles? They did not attack or loot those shops around the area.

2) The rioters didn't attack any policeman or uniformed personnel at all.Why would they overturn the vehicles and burn them but not attack these people?

3) They are NOT exactly DRUNK. When the riot police moved in, ALL the rioters ran away! There were no resistance nor attack on these riot police at all! The people they have arrested are those who are too drunk to move, least riot in any ways, in the aftermath. These people cannot even understand what the police wanted them to do due to communication problems. They were arrested and initially charged for rioting but of course, it does not take a genius to realize that this is totally absurd. Thus, the charge was modified to "failure to disperse" when ordered by police. This is the main reason why PAP Ministers have erroneously concluded that alcohol is the main reason of the riot at the very first instance.

4) PAP government started to deport all "suspects" even though they set up a Committee Of Inquiry. But wait, how would the Committee of Inquiry find out any Truth when all these IMPORTANT participants are deported? Who are they supposed to interview or question to find out the real underlying reasons of this riot?

This is really a REAL CIRCUS of chaos of PAP's rule. PAP Ministers should learn from ancient Qing Emperor Kang Xi: the most untrustworthy things in this world, is "reports" from officials. (最不可信的是奏折!)If you want to know the truth, don't ever attend dialogue or talk organized by the people below. You should just walk up to some foreign workers on the street IN RANDOM and ask them about their situation. This is what I have done always. Talk to REAL PEOPLE, not STAGED People.

Those reports and statistics done by the people below, most of the time, will try to fit into what they want you to hear or the line for you to take. No Modern Slavery in Singapore? Think again.

1) Government Workers' Levy is a form of extortion of hard labour of these migrant workers. The government may think that these levies are targeted at the employers but the truth is, the employers will just take off from the total cost of employing these foreign labour to pay for these levies. Thus, the truth is, just like the ancient slavery system in the feudal system, PAP government is just benefiting from these migrant workers' hard labour just like that.This is a form of true exploitation by the PAP government on migrant workers' hard labour.

2) PAP ministers claimed that these migrant workers are "reasonably paid". But just read this report from  Asiaone They are paid only S$1.50 per hour for their job! The worst part is, MOM backed off from enhancing the rule that all payroll must be made with a proper salary slip! How difficult for employers in this modern age to issue salary slip? The truth is, most of the time, these employers just under pay their migrant workers!

3) No complain doesn't mean no problem. As mentioned in this report, most migrant workers do not complain or even go into strike due to bad treatment or pay irregularities for fear of being deported immediately. PAP government is the main culprit of deporting them immediately at the first sight of trouble, how could they trust this system of slavery?

4) There is no minimum wage system for these migrant workers but higher and higher workers' levies imposed on them. It basically means that PAP government is not interested in setting up a fair employment system for these migrant workers but only interested in benefiting from their labour through workers' levy! It is absurd to say that it would be extra administrative work and cost for the employers if they were to issue salary slip when they are already doing all the administrative work to pay the government workers levies!

PAP government has to face up to the reality of this monster system of Modern Slavery they have created to unfairly profiteering from these migrant workers. What they should do is to minimize the workers' levies and instead, set a fair minimum wage for ALL construction workers, both for these migrant workers and for those Singaporeans who want to work in this industry.

It is no coincidence that these foreign workers are venting their anger against the establishment via their "proxies" on the ground where police cars and all other vehicles which represent the ruling system. PAP government can continue to be angry of me for telling the truth and shaming them in the public international sphere and I will just call a spade a spade. Scrap this system of Modern Slavery!

Goh Meng Seng

The Asiaone report:

Some foreign workers say that on pay day, they are passed cash stuffed in envelopes and the amounts are occasionally far less than what they are owed. Mandating electronic transfers of salary could help overcome this problem. The main reason workers do not complain is that doing so can cost them their job.
The Straits Times
For a year, Bangladeshi construction worker Hossain Iqbel worked seven days a week fitting pipes underground on Jurong Island.
His basic wages - at $1.50 an hour or around $280 a month - were a third of the $800 he had been promised when he left home.
He did not complain at first, despite having proof of his low wages - unlike many other employers of foreign workers, his issued payslips.
He held back because he had borrowed heavily to pay for recruitment fees and did not want to be repatriated.
Eventually, he lodged a complaint days before his contract was due to end, fearing he might be sent home without his dues being settled.
Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin told Parliament last month that migrant workers were generally treated well by employers, and a 2011 survey of 3,000 work permit holders showed that nine in 10 were satisfied.
Complaints to the ministry about work-related abuses are also low. It helped 7,000 foreign workers last year - less than 1 per cent of the 700,000 work permit holders here.
But these numbers may not reflect the true picture on the ground.
While covering foreign worker issues, I have been told time and again by workers and their advocates that despite grave abuses, many workers will not complain so long as the power balance between employer and employee remains skewed in the employer's favour. Some policies need tweaking to level the playing field.

First, the ministry could compel all big and medium-sized companies to issue itemised payslips, clearly showing basic and overtime pay, hours worked and deductions, if any. Itemisation is important. I have seen hastily scrawled figures on the backs of used envelopes that currently pass as "payslips". This needs to change.
A move to mandate payslips was deferred for all companies recently, after feedback that small and medium-sized enterprises needed more time to implement proper payroll systems.
An ongoing survey by workers' group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) shows that one in 10 claimed they were underpaid or not paid at all in the previous month. That could translate into tens of thousands of workers at any given time.
Itemised payslips - together with electronic payments - would give workers proof of being underpaid and empower them to complain.
Some workers say that on pay day, they are passed cash stuffed in envelopes and the amounts are occasionally far less than what they are owed.
Mandating electronic transfers of salary could help overcome this problem. The ministry says some workers may prefer the convenience of cash payments.
This could be easily catered for by having an opt-out feature.
But the main reason workers do not complain is that doing so can cost them their job.
The employer can unilaterally cancel the work permit and send the worker home once the complaint is resolved and dues are paid.
For workers who still have debts to repay, complaining is the last option.
A survey of 104 Bangladeshi workers showed that each paid an average of $6,500 to get here and it took up to 17months to repay their loans. Anyone sent home within his first year returns to big debts.
TWC2 advocates have suggested that a worker who leaves his job - whether he is sacked or resigns - should be allowed 60 days to remain in Singapore and find another.
A worker who feels unfairly treated or abused will more readily speak up and complain, if he is assured that he is not at risk of being packed off home.
Such a move could also help raise workers' wages and hurt the bad eggs, such as Mr Iqbel's employer, who profit by undercutting more ethical competitors who know it is morally wrong to pay a manual worker $1.50 an hour.
Employers' interests could be protected by proscribing mass resignations, to prevent large-scale poaching by competitors.
Significantly, Singapore allows foreign maids to transfer to another employer in case of disputes with an existing employer.
Also, as part of a little-known scheme, the Manpower Ministry already allows work permit holders to change jobs on a case-by-case basis.
It is unclear how many have been allowed to do so, but there were two cases recently of workers being given 14 days to look for a job after their permits were cancelled when their employer defaulted on levy payments.
Finally, there is the matter of wages.
In the absence of publicly available surveys of foreign workers' wages, it is hard to know how many workers earn as little as Mr Iqbel.
The Sunday Times understands that the Bangladeshi and 14 of his compatriots were each owed an average of $9,500 in wages.
They eventually opted to settle privately with their employer and left Singapore.
Thanks in part to tireless negotiations by unions, the Government recently announced that it would introduce new laws to ensure that local cleaners would get at least $1,000 in wages. More productive and skilled workers can earn more.

Even as we applaud the move, it is time to discuss how blue-collar wages can be pulled up in the construction and marine sector too, where, as Mr Iqbel's example shows, workers might be earning less than a third of what a cleaner gets, despite back-breaking manual labour.
Singaporeans have long clutched the moral fig leaf that it is okay to pay these foreigners a pittance because they spend the bulk of their salaries in their home countries, where the costs of living are far lower. Besides, they come willingly - and conventional wisdom has it that if they don't like what they get, they can leave.
Such attitudes must change. Working hard at vital jobs that most locals will never deign to do, migrant workers have played a key part in Singapore's economic success and deserve better - and fairer - returns.
It is time to evaluate whether it's right to pay anyone $1.50 an hour for hard work - just because it's legal and we can.
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Anonymous said...

Workers from overseas when offered a job in Singapore or other countries such as Australia, England, etc. take the overseas work because they are better paid, get good benefits, and there is little harassment.

Quite a number of foreign workers already in Singapore are looking for foreign jobs.

This led to Chinese, Indian, Bangladeshi and Filipino workers shunning Singapore and Singapore agents looking at new countries such as Burma and Sri Lanka to get the foreign labour, that is, those workers who don't have networks in Singapore and don't know what the situation is like here.

This can go on for a while until eventually many foreign workers will shun Singapore.

real estate in aurangabad said...

Its good that there was not any life loss. hope this riots and all stop as soon as possible.