Indonesians suffer high level of worker abuse in Singapore

Candra Malik
The Jakarta Globe

At least 150 migrant workers come to the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore every day to lodge complaints against their employers, Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore Wardana says.

“There are a lot of Indonesian migrants working as domestics in Singapore and they encounter various problems, including unpaid salaries and physical abuse by their employers,” Wardana said during a discussion titled “Optimization of Public Service, Citizen Protection and Indonesian Migrant Workers in Singapore,” in Solo, Central Java, on Saturday.

Wardana said more than half of the 156,000 migrant workers in Singapore in 2008 were Indonesians and that number increased in 2009.

The steady increase, the ambassador said, showed that demand for Indonesian workers by Singaporean citizens was high and that should in theory increase their bargaining power.

“But the opposite is true and problems do continue to arise,” Wardana said. “In 2008, we recorded that some 1,980 Indonesian migrant workers in Singapore had problems with their employers.”

The workers, according to the diplomat, usually called up the embassy after 10 p.m. or when their employer had gone to sleep.

“The fact that they reported in the middle of the night indicated that those migrant workers were in trouble and afraid of their employers,” he said.

He also said that his office had managed to save eight Indonesian migrant workers from the death penalty after they were sentenced to die by Singaporean courts for various reasons.

“It wasn’t easy to provide those workers legal assistance. The embassy, in cooperation with its team of lawyers, worked hard to overturn the death penalties imposed on them and eventually they received lighter punishment,” he said, though he did not elaborate.

Wardana also said that since the embassy launched its Citizen Service Program in 2007 it had managed to settle 290 migrant worker cases and improved condistions for thousands of workers.

“The embassy assisted the workers with their contract extensions by providing a contract that includes a salary raise and the right for workers to have time off,” Wardana said. “And the most important thing is the contract is signed at the Indonesian Embassy,” he said, adding that in 2008 alone, the embassy helped with the work contract extensions of at least 10,000 workers.

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