Target: Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore
Goal: Equal wages and fair treatment of migrant workers in Singapore
For the first time in 26 years, a workers’ strike recently took place in Singapore. With this strike, migrant workers attempted to capture the attention of their government, and raise awareness across the globe about the unfair treatment of migrant workers. Singapore is a small island state with a population of approximately 4 million people, and was recently ranked the richest country in the world by the 2012 World Wealth Report. Singapore hosts about 1.3 million migrant workers (almost 25% of all residents) who have to pay steep job placement fees to the agents finding them work in Singapore – often unskilled, low-paying work.
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) says that the pay for migrant workers should reflect the actual work that they do, and that they are entitled to fair wages like any other worker. But businesses tend to base their differences in pay on discriminatory stereotyping, saying that foreign workers have different knowledge levels and attitudes from their Singaporean colleagues, and that lower pay is therefore justified.
The 171 bus drivers from China went on strike because of their poor living conditions, and because they were earning less pay than their Malaysian and Singaporean driver colleagues. The government’s response has been insensitive to these objections. Singapore’s Manpower Minister Tan Chuan stated that the strike was illegal, and the drivers’ decision to “take matters into their own hands” crossed the line. The government acted quickly by charging five of the drivers with breaking the “no-strike” law. They have also withdrawn work permits and deported 29 of the other people on strike. Those arrested and deported were, according to Chuan, the ringleaders of the strike. Since this immediate government response, one of the drivers has been sentenced to six weeks in prison.
Singapore law states that an employer can make a unilateral decision to cancel a work permit and send the worker home within 48 hours. When these workers have been forced to leave prematurely, they are often in a worse economic state than they were before they left, due to the large job placement fees. The Singapore government is well aware that they are in need of a migrant workforce, as business is booming and the unemployment rate is only at 1.9% – one of the lowest in the world. Sign this petition and ask the leaders of Singapore to take responsibility, and ensure protection and fair wages to a workforce they themselves are dependent on.
Dear Mr. Lee,
I ask you to carefully consider the conditions migrant workers in Singapore face. They come to your country to financially improve their lives and the lives of their families. But instead they are forced to pay steep job placement fees, and when an employer unilaterally cancels a work permit and sends workers home within 48 hours, they often find themselves in greater economic difficulty than they experienced before they left for Singapore. The salaries for migrant workers should reflect the actual work that they do, and they should be entitled to fair wages like any other worker. In reality, they are often paid less than their Singaporean colleagues for the same kind of work.
The 171 bus drivers from China that recently went on strike did so because of their poor living conditions, and because they were earning less pay than their Malaysian and Singaporean driver colleagues. Instead of punishing them, Singapore should listen to them, and address the problem they were brave enough to draw to your attention. These workers need fair and decent treatment from you, just as you need manpower from them. Therefore, I ask you to take responsibility for their well-being while in Singapore, and ensure equal and fair wages to all your workers.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: riacale via Flickr