As part of the efforts to help foreign workers settle in their workplace, a Settling-In Programme (SIP) is made mandatory from the second half of next year. Similar scheme is also set up for first-time domestic workers in Singapore.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said that by attending this programme, foreign workers can learn more about Singapore’s social norms and laws, as well as know better about their employment rights and obligations. It also provides information about how and where they can seek further help.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that work on foreign workers issue responded positively to the move. They said that employers not paying salaries to their workers or not compensating them for work injuries continue to be an issue in Singapore. Therefore, they expected the new programme can help newcomers know what they are entitled to and where they should go for help.
Speaking at Ministry of Manpower (MOM) appreciation dinner for more than 300 partners, including employers, dormitory operators and NGOs, Mr Lim said that the programme will be rolled out in phases, starting with first-time foreign workers in the construction sector. Then, the SIP will be extended progressively to other sectors such as the marine, process, manufacturing and service industries. However, Malaysians will be excluded from the scheme.
Further, MOM expected about 2,000 foreign workers in the construction sector to attend the programme each month. The registration and course fees will be charged to the employers, Straits Times reports.
Earlier, the ministry had conducted a pilot programme from June to October last year, involving almost 1,900 workers. In their feedbacks, participants said the course was useful and helped them understand how MOM can help with employment issues. Post-course evaluation also noted that the workers demonstrated more positive work attitude after attending the programme.
According to Mr Lim, currently there are around one million work permit holders in Singapore, of whom about 700,000 are non-domestic foreign workers. He stressed the need to take strong action aganst irresponsible employers and employment agencies, while Singapore keeps strengthening its laws and policies in this area over the years.
Under the Employment Agencies Act passed in 2011, the fine for those operating without a valid license was raised from a maximum of $5,000 to $80,000 for first-time offenders. Last year, itemised pay slips and key employment terms in writing also became compulsory, he said.
In April this year, the government set up Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management to strengthen dispute resolution mechanisms. In the first six months after that, it had received 2,500 salary claims from foreign workers. Among the cases where mediation was concluded, about 90 percent of the workers recovered their unpaid salaries in full, added Mr Lim.
He also said that all foreign workers with valid salary claims are also allowed to change employers. In the first semester of 2017, about 600 of such foreign workers indicated their intention to change employers. Half of them found new jobs in Singapore.
Additionally, Mr Lim noted that in the first nine months of 2017, over 99.9 percent of 11,500 injured workers had their cases successfully resolved. The other 0.1 percent case was not resolved because the employers failed to buy work injury compensation insurance and were facing financial difficulties, he added.