Migrant worker consumed meal on wet ground as he feared he might dirty bus stop seat

They are more considerate than we give them credit for.

By Belmont Lay | April 24, 2016

Wisma Atria was tossed into the spotlight yesterday on April 23 after a member of the public voiced displeasure regarding a long-standing policy of the mall banning construction workers from using its public toilets.

It was reported in The Straits Times that the Orchard Road mall had put up signs at their toilets that not only banned construction workers from using the facilities since 2011, but also threatened them with fines and expulsion if they disobeyed.

YTL Starhill Global Reit, which manages Wisma, defended the signs, saying the restriction was to ensure that shoppers enjoy a conducive shopping environment within the mall and also because the public had complained about workers showering in the toilets or washing their tools in the sinks.

The workers are allowed to use only a toilet in the car park on the fifth floor.

Is a ban necessary?

Advocates for migrant workers, however, said a blanket ban by Wisma might be going too far.

Instead of stopping the workers completely from using the toilets, which can be construed as a discriminatory practice, signs can be put up to inform them to be mindful of not dirtying the toilets and to be more considerate by keeping the premises clean.

Such an approach will most likely work for all parties and stakeholders.

As luck would have it — coincidentally and separately from the Wisma hullabaloo — this following Facebook post showed up on some people’s news feeds on the same day as the ST report: A migrant worker was photographed by a member of the public going out of his way by having his meal while seated on the wet ground after a downpour — all because he was afraid of dirtying the bus stop seat if he sat on it.

At what and whose expense?

For anyone who has had first-hand experience meeting or even crossing paths with migrant workers, even for very fleeting, negligible moments, they can attest to the fact that these frequently overlooked labourers in our midst are among the most self-conscious, civic-minded and situationally-aware people in Singapore.

Migrant workers routinely are the first to give up their seats on the MRT to others who need it more (i.e. locals).

Within housing estates, they are the rare few people who actually have little qualms greeting residents.

They are known to save stray cats from drains, rescue a toddler who got stuck outside the second floor kitchen ledge and bring old people to safety from burning flats.

And they even helped the visually-impaired cross the road regularly.

And so it has come to this.

The message this photo above sends is exceedingly clear in the larger context of Singapore society: The comfort and convenience afforded to some obviously comes at the expense of someone else.

An expense that can sometimes be great, often times unseen and even downright unnecessary.

Therefore, a consciousness-raising exercise in futility this would not be, so long as just one more person in Singapore can be swayed that it is okay for migrant workers to share basic amenities and common facilities with the rest of polite society as this is to accord them with basic dignity.

Or rather, it is okay for polite society to share basic amenities and common facilities with migrant workers to earn their respect as this is what First World countries do.


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About Belmont Lay

Belmont can pronounce "tchotchke".

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