Injured migrant workers living in uncertainty with broken bodies and spirits, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Injured migrant workers living in uncertainty with broken bodies and spirits

There were almost 30 per cent more work injury claims for permanent incapacity awarded in 2023 than in 2022.

The 5,173 claims for permanent incapacity awarded in 2023 were a marked rise from the 3,992 claims the year before.

About $112 million in medical certificate (MC) wages and compensation was paid out in 2023, compared with $90 million in 2022, according to the Ministry of Manpower‘s latest workplace safety and health report in March 2024.

Overall, the number of work injury claims awarded in 2023, including for temporary incapacity, rose 6 per cent to 26,998, from 25,566 in 2022.

Ms Debbie Fordyce, president of local charity Transient Workers Count Too, meets some of these injured workers every evening at the charity’s Rowell Road shophouse premises in Little India.

About 80 workers, often with spinal injuries, pulled ligaments or amputated limbs, who are out of work while awaiting their salary or work injury claims, go there daily for a free meal.

Ms Fordyce said they typically wait about one year for their compensation. If employers challenge the validity of the claims, the process may drag to two years or even longer.

During this time, some workers are not allowed to work, as their work permits have been cancelled.

Said Ms Fordyce: “Once they stop sending money home, they are in extreme difficulty.” She added that most workers do not want their families to know about their situation, so as not to worry them.

Two injured workers spoke to The Straits Times on condition of anonymity as their claims are still pending.

Mr Ali, 34, sustained a serious spinal injury when he fell from a ladder at work in July 2023. He can still walk but has trouble getting up from a seated position.

Married with a two-year-old son, he was out of work for nine months while awaiting compensation from his work injury claim. But before he received the money, he had to return to Bangladesh.

Mr Ali received three months’ MC salary of about $2,300 in total, but this could not cover the $5,000 loan he took to get a job in Singapore, and the additional $270 monthly interest.

Meeting ST in April, a day before he flew home, he said: “When I go back to Bangladesh, people will ask me for money. How will I take care of my child?”

Mr Rahul, 47, a fellow Bangladeshi worker, also suffered a serious spinal injury, after a 200kg marble slab fell on his legs while he was at work in May 2022. He is able to walk now, but cannot lie down or sit for long periods, and can no longer lift heavy objects.

The father of four children is still waiting on his work injury claim, and has not been able to work for almost two years. Initially, he spent most of his time isolated in his dormitory.

Mr Rahul said: “In the first few months, it was boring. I had hypertension because I thought a lot about my family and my problems.”

He was referred to HealthServe, a healthcare charity for low-wage migrant workers, where he now attends monthly counselling sessions.

His counsellor, Ms Sudipta Biswas, taught him how to communicate with his family and to manage negative thoughts.

Said Ms Sudipta: “He used to keep to himself. But he realised he needs friends, and to go out and talk to people. That helps him to feel better.”

FOREIGN WORKERSMental HealthMinistry of Manpower