Shameful state of meals given to foreign workers reveal what this country is built on

Built on rancid food and sad portions, that is.

Jonathan Lim| March 20, 02:37 PM

A study by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and HealthServe, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) has revealed the sorry state of meals provided to foreign construction workers in the Tai Seng area, according to a Mar.19 TODAY news report.

It was reported that packed breakfasts and lunches for these workers are cooked by 3 a.m. each day and delivered to the construction sites at 6 a.m. That meant that lunch packs may turn out rancid by mid-day.

Workers spoken to also complained that the food provided by caterers lacked protein, contained expired ingredients and spoiled food. The catered food costs about a quarter of a foreign worker's salary.

While caterers do provide employers the option of having each meal delivered separately, it would cost $50 more per worker and employers do not take up the offer.

Although some workers are given the option to cook for themselves, the long queues for using cooking equipment - a wait of up to 90 minutes - mean that they would have to sacrifice sleep and rest time. Having meals outside would also eat into their already small salary meant for sending home to their families.

Here are a few questions to ask from this:

1. Why are the foreign workers not up in arms over this?

If you understand how much money some of these foreign workers owed to agents who brought them to Singapore, you will understand why many of these workers are suffering in silence.

If you would like to know how some foreign workers who voice up for their own rights are dealt with, you should read this post by the Banglar Kantha, a bengali news blog in Singapore.

2. Are profit margins for construction companies so thin that they cannot improve food quality?

While not all companies are guilty of providing poorly catered food to its workers, it is quite telling how caterers have said that employers are not keen to spend $50 more per worker to improve the quality of food they receive.

3. Is it any wonder that Singaporeans shun jobs in the construction industry?

Is it fair for employers in the construction industry to say that Singaporeans are picky? Singaporeans shun jobs in the construction industry because the salary is meagre, quality of food is shameful, and work hours are long.

While foreign construction workers can tough it out in these grueling conditions to send money home, where that money can buy a better life, this salary does not buy a better life for Singaporeans, especially with our high costs of living here.

4. How can Singaporeans help improve this situation?

We can start by treating foreign workers with more respect and dignity. At least one person on Facebook has pledged to do something about how foreign workers are being fed:

Kudos to this kind-hearted academic and former journalist.

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