Friday 14 March 2014

First group of Filipino construction workers arrives in Singapore

By Saifulbahri Ismail, Channel NewsAsia, 13 Mar 2014

The first group of nine construction workers from the Philippines has arrived in Singapore.

The Philippines is a country which Singapore hopes can be its new source of skilled manpower for infrastructure projects.

The workers have acquired the necessary skills, having completed training and tests in the Philippines.

They are expected to start work on March 17 and are all raring to go.

Filipino construction workers recruited by Yang Seng Engineering come from different cities across the Philippines. They aspire to do well and make their families proud.

Jonathan Boado, a Filipino construction worker, said: "I want to work here together with all these other people, to my best ability. I will (bear) in... mind (that) I want to help my parents because we are poor people in my country."

Construction workers from the Philippines are considered better skilled, many with experience in working overseas.

In addition, their ability to speak better English is something that companies consider an asset.

Koh Kwong Quee, assistant general manager at Yang Seng Engineering, said: "Language proficiency wise, I think they are better -- they can understand well because they speak English well...

"The other non-traditional source workers, they are not really well educated, so sometimes when communicating with them, we found some difficulty."

Singapore is expected to recruit some 200 Filipino construction workers a month when all the overseas training centres in the Philippines are fully operational.

When more of them are in Singapore, as part of their employment conditions, the Philippine government will require the workers to be housed in a separate building from workers of other nationalities.

Vincent Cabe, labour attache at the Embassy of the Philippines in Singapore, said: "We have encountered cases where there are conflicts between... foreign workers because of cultural differences, and perhaps sometimes because of language differences.

"They don't seem to understand each other, and Filipinos also have some different cultural dimensions that are different from other nationals of other labour-sending countries.

"So it is best that we base it on this experience with other countries... (and) try to avoid it rather than wait for something to go wrong."

So far, the workers are happy with the accommodation at the dormitory.

Filipino construction worker Froilan Rodriguez said: "(It) is systematic (here). We have different rooms and different kitchens. So, it's good here."

Besides the condition on accommodation, the Philippine government has also requested that the workers are provided with meals.

Mr Cabe explained: "The reason being that if these workers are on the job from morning to sunset, or even take overtime, sometimes we presume then they wouldn't have time to cook their own meals.

“The company should… provide free food so that when they go home, they only have to eat and then rest because we believe the job of the construction workers is a little bit heavy."

Yang Seng Engineering has agreed to give the Filipino workers a food allowance of S$100. This is on top of their salary of about S$800 per month, or S$30 a day.

The Filipinos will complement the construction manpower in Singapore -- who are mainly from China, India and Bangladesh.

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