foreign talent

Toward a More Inclusive Workplace

By: Gerald Goh

Even as Singaporeans celebrate Racial Harmony Day this weekend, it’s worthwhile to take a step back and reflect on Singapore’s increasingly-diverse working environment.

Employees from other countries are joining the country’s workforce in ever-increasing numbers. With this growing ethnic diversity in the workplace, organisations should formulate and implement policies and practices (if they haven’t done so already) that foster an inclusive workplace, one that understands and appreciates the differences between employees while helping them maximise their potential.

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Revised Employer Guidelines for Job Postings

Employers, take note: in a bid to take a tougher stand against discriminatory hiring practices, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) recently updated their guidelines for posting job advertisements. Companies who don’t comply may risk having their company’s work pass privileges suspended by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

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Calls for more jobs to be given to Singaporeans

Opposition leader Low Thia Khiang has requested the Government to take steps to set aside skilled jobs for locals. Citing the construction industry which is heavily saturated by foreign workers, Mr. Low suggested that jobs like safety managers, crane operators and tractor drivers can still be given to Singaporeans.

Likewise, Mr. Yeo Guat Kwang from Aljunied GRC advised bosses in the services sector to continue hiring Singaporeans, especially older retrenched workers who have gone through retraining.

Most foreigners are employed in the services and construction sectors which Singaporeans tend to shun, but Labour MP Halimah Yacob of Jurong GRC warned that if foreign workers crowded out Singaporeans in any sector, Singaporeans may lose the skills to work in that sector.

In an uncertain time when local workers are pit against their foreign counterparts for employment, Mr. Low urged the Government to assure Singaporeans that the Government will guard the interests of Singaporean workers.

Yet on the other hand, MP Sam Tan from Tanjong Pagar GRC, feels that Singaporeans rely too heavily on the Government.

Foreign workers are human, too

They may be working behind barricades and they continue their shift work in construction while we sleep. But seeing so little of them does not mean that they do not exist. Foreign labourers are the people I am referring to. A recent check of dormitory conditions by several statutory boards revealed that almost 2,600 foreign workers are being housed in 16 unapproved dormitories.

Following the checks, 147 companies have been ordered to shift their workers to better living conditions. I don’t know which is more alarming - the number of affected foreign workers or the number of irresponsible companies.

The Divisional Director of the Foreign Manpower Management has given a firm word that housing these workers in poor conditions poses a threat to public health in general. These foreign workers who come to Singapore to earn a living for a better life in future back home often have to put up with uncompassionate employers who house them in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions.

I reckon that Singaporean employers might need to receive some training, to improve their employment practices and level of compassion for the foreign labourers who work so hard to ensure a beautiful built environment in a country which is not even theirs.

4 company directors prosecuted by MOM

Late last year, a group of foreign workers made headlines by protesting outside MOM against their employer. Since then, more cases of foreign workers being shortchanged have emerged.

Just yesterday, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) meted out a slew of 268 charges against four company directors in Singapore for infringing the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA).

Some of these charges include deploying foreign workers illegally, providing false information so as to hire 'phantom workers', not providing proper accommodation and not paying workers their salaries on time.

Among these directors are Low Siew Fai, a Director of Tipper Corp who faces 145 charges in total and Paul Lee Chiang Theng, a director of three companies slapped with 100 charges. The third employer faces 20 charges and the fourth unnamed reprobate faces three charges, both for illegally employing Tipper's workers.

To help the affected workers, MOM has assisted 676 of them with salary claims, and has repatriated about 1,000 out of 1,200 workers from Tipper, Gates Offshore and Goldrich Venture who chose to go home. 50 of these workers were able to find alternative jobs and have been granted work permits.

If you are a foreigner who has experienced unpleasant incidents with your current or former employers, do share your story with us here.