Thursday, January 1, 2015

Singapore to impart communication skills training to officials

will impart training to its labour officials for communicating effectively with migrant workers from and other South Asian countries keeping in mind their cultural sensitivities after a probe panel recommended this following the country's worst riots in Little India in 2013. 

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

The training was recommended by the Committee of Inquiry (COI) probing the December 2013 riots in Little India - a precinct of Indian-origin shops, eateries, motels and hotels - in which 54 police and security officers were hurt and 23 emergency vehicles damaged. 

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, and Indonesia, reported the Singapore daily, citing a course document. 

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," the COI said in its report which also looked at issues leading to the riot on December 8, 2013 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 include Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. 

The report quoted Member of Parliament Yeo Guat Kwang as saying that 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," said Yeo, also 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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