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COI recommends skill training for S'pore labour dept officials

Press Trust of India  |  Singapore 

Singapore Government will impart training to its Labour Department officials for communicating effectively with migrant workers from India and other South Asian countries, following a recommendation by the Committee of Inquiry (COI) probing the December 2013 Little India riots.

The training of officers from the Ministry of Manpower, expected to start early next month, would also cover skills in listening, persuasion and negotiations, reported The Straits Times today.

The officers would go through the specially designed course to understand the power of persuasion, learn various ways of communication and engagement with foreign workers, from India, Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, reported the Singapore daily, citing a course document.

It said the first ground to attend the course would be officers handling welfare of foreign workers stranded in Singapore while their employers are investigated for offences, like failing to pay the workers' wages. These officers' duties include helping foreign workers apply for new jobs or repatriate them.

The state-appointed COI hearing covered issues related to foreign workers employed in labour-intensive industries and noted their grievances related to accommodations, wages and welfare. It then recommended that all personnel, including government officials, who are frequently dealing with foreign workers, be given training in cultural sensitivities

"Training which covers basic or key words in the workers' native languages would go a long way in fostering greater understanding and communication," said the COI in its report which also looked at issues leading to December 8, 2013 riot involving South Asian migrant workers in Singapore's worst street violence in 40 years.

Besides India, the other South Asian countries from where workforce migrates to Singapore includes Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Fifty-four police and security officers were hurt and 23 emergency vehicles damaged in the riot in Little India, a precinct of Indian-origin shops, eateries, motels and hotels.

Commenting on the training, a member of parliament, Yeo Guat Kwang, said the trained officers could also help change the foreign workers' less-than-rosy perception of Singapore.

"These workers on special passes may have some misgivings about the authorities, given their bad experiences with employers," The Straits Times quoted Mr Yeo, who is also a chairman of the advocacy group Migrant Workers Centre.

Singapore's labour-intensive construction and marine industries are highly depended on foreign labourers from Asian countries.

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First Published: Thu, January 01 2015. 08:35 IST