In Nov 2012, SMRT bus drivers staged the first strike in 25 years due to low pay and poor living conditions. Honestly, it's not hard to imagine foreign workers in Singapore being unhappy but if there's any doubt, we now have another example of why.
The Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is investigating local conglomerate Keppel Shipyard and one of its sub-contractors for the non-payment of some 120 workers. The MOM reported that the contractor, Akash Engineering and Technology, did not pay their workers from Bangladesh and India for over 3 months and the workers nearly went on strike last month due to the pay dispute. In damage control mode, Keppel Shipyard said it had “made every effort possible” to help Akash once it found out about the “difficulties” the company was facing and even gave early payments to Akash due to their financial difficulties.
To me, it doesn't matter what Keppel did or why Akash did not pay the workers. The important thing is that the workers worked 3 months without pay and they could do nothing about it! They have no worker union and they have no one to speak for them; they only got someone to step in after the Migrant Workers’ Centre heard that the workers were going to go on strike. That is just wrong.
That tells me help only came when they threaten drastic action. The MOM need to do more than punish Keppel and Akash, they need to find a way to get help to foreign workers quicker. Help must arrive before a strike is threaten because if it doesn't, sooner or later the MOM and the Migrant Workers’ Centre will miss one and we have Nov 2012 all over again.
That is something I think no one in Singapore wants.