Singapur - Rights of foreign domestic workers and other migrant workers still restricted (2012)

Restrictions on migrant workers’ rights to serve as an officer, trustee or staff member of a union (without prior written approval by the Minister) affect a significant percentage of the country’s workforce. According to the Ministry of Manpower statistics, at the end of 2010, the total work force in Singapore was 3,105,900 with 1,113,200 (35.8%) noted as non-residents.

A government-mandated standard contract for migrant workers does not address issues such as long work hours and poor living conditions. Instead of guaranteeing one day off per month and a set number of rest hours a day, it makes such breaks a matter of negotiation between employer and employee. It also fails to provide protections against denial of annual or medical leave (though employer-provided medical insurance is required), requires immediate deportation of pregnant workers, and stipulates that no foreign domestic workers may marry a Singaporean. Some 4,000 foreign maids ran away from their employers’ in 2010 according to their embassies and shelters for foreign workers. Most complained they were homesick or stressed by difficult work conditions. Since April 2011, Singaporean employment agencies can charge a worker a fee not exceeding one month of his salary, for each year of the duration of the approved Work Pass or employment contract, whichever is shorter, subject to a maximum of two months’ salary. Separately, agencies are required to refund to workers 50% of any fee charged if the worker’s employment is prematurely terminated within six months of its commencement, and it is not terminated by the worker.

The NTUC advocates for the rights of foreign domestic workers and other migrant workers through its Migrant Workers’ Forum. It also set up the Migrant Workers Centre (MWC), together with the Singapore National Employers’ Federation, in April 2009 to champion fair employment practices and the well- being of migrant workers in Singapore. Since its opening, the MWC has provided emergency housing and/or food assistance to more than 460 workers and employment-related advice, advocacy services and representation in case resolution to more than 2,000 workers. The MWC also runs enrichment courses benefitting more than 1,800 workers. The MWC has promoted “Fair Employment Practices & Treatment of Migrant Workers” to more than 70,000 migrant workers and employers through various platforms.

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