SINGAPORE — It is the employer’s responsibility to provide for basic needs for foreign workers even when a worker has lodged a complaint against them, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told the Committee of Inquiry (COI) looking into the Little India riot today (March 18).
The COI had repeatedly grilled Mr Kevin Teoh, the MOM’s Divisional Director of the Foreign Manpower Management Division, on whether foreign workers would be provided for after lodging a complaint.
Mr Teoh said that the onus was on the employer of the foreign workers to provide basic needs such as food, and the ministry would step in if they found that the employers are unwilling or unable to do so.
Last week, Transient Workers Count 2 (TWC2) President Russell Heng told the COI that TWC2’s soup kitchen — which provides meals for foreign workers — sees up to 300 foreign workers dining there daily after they were “abandoned” by their employers for lodging complaints with the MOM, even though they had been given passes to stay in Singapore.
Dr Heng also told the COI that there were 1.1 million low-wage workers, attributing the information to the MOM’s website.
However, when asked by COI member John De Payva about the term “abandoned workers” today, Mr Teoh disagreed and told the COI that the MOM is looking into the statements about the “300 abandoned workers”.
He also said there are 1.1 million non-domestic foreign workers in Singapore, but noted that there is no classification of “low-wage workers”.
Asked by COI chairman G Pannir Selvam where workers in need could find their next meal, Mr Teoh said: “These workers … (we) could refer them to NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) … (such as the) MWC (Migrant Workers Centre) to help manage workers”.
The COI also heard from the ambulance driver involved in the Little India riot.
The inquiry continues.