Wednesday, 26 November 2008

WPQ 17 November 2008: Foreign Workers on Special Passes

I asked some questions about foreign workers back in October, including the number of foreign workers on special passes. Acting Minister Gan did not have the figures on him. So I followed up with a written question last week.

I think to be fair, the number of complaints as a percentage of the total number of foreign workers here is quite low. But be that as it may, even one case is one case too many. These are after all human beings and human lives that we are talking about, with knock-on consequences for the workers' families at home. Just like workplace safety, we should have a zero-tolerance approach to the exploitation of foreign workers.



6. Mr Siew Kum Hong: To ask the Acting Minister for Manpower (a) how many foreign workers are currently on special passes because they are assisting the Ministry in investigations; (b) of these special pass holders, how many of them have employment under the Temporary Job Scheme; and (c) for each of the previous 5 years, how many special passes have been issued and what was the average duration of validity.

Mr Gan Kim Yong: In the course of investigations, MOM will assess whether a foreign worker’s continued presence in Singapore is required in the event of a trial. If the foreign worker’s assistance is no longer needed and he is no longer being employed, he will be repatriated. If his assistance is required, he will be issued with a Special Pass for the period of investigations. During this period, MOM will facilitate the worker’s employment under the Temporary Job Scheme (TJS).

Since 2005, there has been on average about 2,500 foreign prosecution witnesses on Special Pass at any one time. As of October 2008, there are 537 foreign workers employed under TJS and another 1,598 foreign prosecution witnesses on Special Pass. Of the latter group, most have indicated to MOM that they do not need the TJS as they have alternative means of subsistence and accommodation. Nevertheless, if the foreigners are unable to find work under TJS and have no means of subsistence, MOM would assist them with housing and upkeep, or expedite their repatriation where possible.

The average time taken for investigations to complete is 3 months but this period could vary depending on the complexity of the cases. Cases that require prosecution may also take a longer time to conclude. While MOM makes every effort to speed up investigations involving these workers to allow them to return home as soon as possible, it is also important to ensure that each case is thoroughly investigated.

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