SINGAPORE: It took "a few days" before non-government organisation Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) managed to see all workers involved in the PIE structure collapse, the group said on Monday night (Jul 17).
In a statement to the media, MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said the centre is "thankful" however that the time taken to "navigate various access controls" did not cause a "slowdown in any of the employers' legal duties being discharged or in the workers being given access to legal relief or assistance". It added that this could be due to the contractor's apprehension about involving "an unknown third party".
Mr Yeo emphasised that there is no reason to "deliberately exclude" the MWC's involvement in such situations, as its concern is for the well-being of the affected workers.
"Where the employer demonstrates responsibility and care for his workers, we will, without exception, avail ourselves to be model partners for the best interests of the worker," Mr Yeo said. "Our hope is that employers see the MWC as a non-judgemental, worker advocate that can be trusted to aid and assist the employer if his genuine intention is to help his workers."
Mr Yeo added that MWC has visited the six injured workers who are still warded in hospital. Two of them - 49-year-old Gao Li Qun and 25-year-old Barek Mohammad Abdul - remain in Changi General Hospital's intensive care unit and are under sedation.
Two other workers, Khan Mohammed Sohan, 23 and Moniruzzaman Mohammad, 34, have been moved to normal wards and were in "positive spirits" when MWC visited, Mr Yeo said. Additionally, two other workers the NGO had visited previously - Alam Shah, 33 and Kathiresan Alaguraja, 30, have completed follow-up surgery.
Mr Yeo also said the MWC had visited the other four workers who had been discharged earlier at their dormitory. The workers - Chen Jiang Hui, Wang Jun Wei, Raihan Mohammad and Hossain Md Mithu - are able to sit up and move around by themselves, MWC added.
"While some head and body aches persist, the workers are hopeful that they may be cleared to go back to work soon," Mr Yeo said, adding that MWC understands that the workers' employers will file the necessary work injury claims within the coming days.
In response to MWC's statement, contractor for the project Or Kim Peow said it welcomes stakeholders to provide their feedback and work together with them as they strive to provide support for and assistance to the affected workers.
The accident, which occurred in the early hours of Jul 14, claimed the life of a worker from China and injured 10 others.
Mr Yeo also highlighted a second fatal worksite accident in Sembawang, which happened on the same day as the viaduct collapse. A 41-year-old worker from China, Zheng Cheng Fei, died in the incident.
"MWC has made contact with the employer of the deceased today and understands that they will be filing the work injury compensation claim. In addition, Mr Zheng’s employer also facilitated the worker’s next-of-kin to Singapore to pay their respects and escort the worker’s remains back home. The MWC has offered our assistance should the employer encounter any problems with the travel arrangements," Mr Yeo said.
FEW EMPLOYERS UNDERSTAND THEY NEED TO BEAR ALL INJURED WORKERS' MEDICAL COSTS
In its statement, the centre reminded all employers that they are solely and fully responsible for all medical costs associated with treating their migrant workers, and noted that very few employers understand this.
It added that while employers are required to take out mandatory medical insurance before hiring a migrant worker, it is only a "basic minimum standard of coverage" and is often inadequate when injuries are serious.
"Migrant workers working in Singapore are not entitled to any Government subsidies. Should your worker’s medical treatment exceed the mandatory basic insurance coverage, you are legally required to pay all costs in excess on your own," MWC said.
"We strongly urge all employers, especially where your employees regularly perform high risk occupations, to adequately protect yourselves and your workers with greater medical insurance protection against serious accidents and illness. We have encountered many examples where medical treatment costs for injured or seriously ill workers have mired their employers in heavy financial debt and difficulty."