SINGAPORE: A coalition of 57 local civil society organizations and community groups has issued a joint statement, calling on the Singapore government to immediately ban the practice of ferrying migrant workers on lorries.
The statement also urged the government to establish a Ministry of Transport (MOT) initiative to support companies facing challenges in transitioning towards safer modes of transport.
This comes as a follow-up to an earlier joint statement released on Monday (24 Jul) by 47 collective groups and concerned members of the public.
The recent statement recalled the tragic incident On 18 and 19 July of this year, a total of 37 workers were injured, with 26 people taken to the hospital on the first day and an additional 11 on the following day. These incidents involved lorries transporting migrant workers.
The group’s discontent is compounded by the Singapore government’s refusal, two weeks prior to the incidents, to pass an adjournment motion by Louis Ng, Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC, which sought to ban the practice of ferrying workers on lorries.
Senior Minister of Transport Amy Khor said the government agreed that it “would be ideal” not to transport workers in lorries, but then went on to repeat the same tired excuses, like how there were “not enough drivers with the necessary license” and “not enough private buses”, as if this were not issues that could have been resolved years ago.
The joint statement strongly criticizes the government’s “feeble steps” in resolving the issue
The joint statement strongly criticizes the government’s “feeble steps” taken so far, claiming that they only serve as a distraction from the necessary action – a complete ban on ferrying workers on goods lorries.
The groups emphasize that lorries were never designed for human transport and pose significant safety risks, compromising the dignity of workers who endure heat stress and heavy rains during transportation.
“The government’s inaction is further inexcusable given the wide range of transport alternatives that so many other countries rely on to transport workers in similar industries, including high tech-bus scheduling and shuttle services that allow companies to share buses, mini-buses, goods-cum-passenger vehicles, and more”
Data from 2020 revealed that the minimum amount of foreign worker levy collected in industries that use lorries for transportation amounted to at least 1.1 billion dollars. The group suggests that a portion of this levy money should be allocated to support smaller companies in their transition to safer transport options.
The statement, penned in an assertive tone, criticizes the government’s response to the issue, stating that instead of addressing it with the necessary gravity and urgency, the government engages in handwringing and theatrics, discussing “trade-offs” and expressing concern about the “acute pain” the industry may face if lorries are banned.
“We have no choice but to conclude that they simply do not care about workers’ lives, or the real, acute pain that injured workers and grieving families thousands of miles away experience every year because of our unconscionable choices.”
Over the years, various voices, including rights groups, health and safety experts, MPs, and migrant workers themselves, have called for an end to transporting workers in lorries. In 2021, NTUC assistant secretary-general, Melvin Yong, proposed a viable alternative using buses equipped with seat belts.
A 2020 people’s petition to ban lorries gained over 40,000 signatures in a single week, reflecting the strong public sentiment towards the issue. The joint statement urges the government to heed the will of the people and prioritize the safety and dignity of migrant workers.
58 workers on lorries lost their lives in road traffic accidents between 2011 and 2020
The statistics are alarming, with 58 workers on lorries losing their lives in road traffic accidents between 2011 and 2020, and 4,765 others sustaining injuries.
The joint statement concludes by emphasizing that migrant workers’ lives are of utmost importance and should not be compromised for the sake of business profits.
“If our Ministers would not put their children in the backs of lorries, then they have no business putting other people’s children – our migrant brothers – in the backs of lorries. Migrant workers’ lives matter. And they certainly matter more than their bosses’ profits.”
The statement ointly signed by the following civil society organisations and community groups:
- City Book Room
- Confessions of a Grab Driver
- Deekshiit Government Fanart
- Dink Collective
- Eastside Mutual Aid
- End FGC SG
- Ethos Books
- For the Children SG
- Function 8
- Heckin’ Unicorn
- Here With You- Migrants Helpline
- Humans Not Cargo
- Journey By Lorry
- Left SG17. Lepak Conversations
- Migrant Dancers Singapore
- Migrant Death Map
- Migrant Mutual Aid
- Migrant Workers Singapore
- Minority Voices
- My Queer Story SG
- NTU Divest
- NTU Financial Aid Friends
- Plural Supply
- Psychosocial Support Community
- Quasa SG
- Queer and Minoritised
- Rachel Pang Comics
- River Valley Irregulars
- SG Bus Drivers
- SG Climate Rally
- SG Riders
- SGP Group
- Sick and Tired
- Singapore Migrant Friends
- Singapore Unbound
- Students For a Fossil Free Future
- The Arts and Civil Space
- The Chai Baba
- The Glass Hut
- The Healing Circle SG
- The Projector
- Think Centre
- Transformative Justice Collective
- UequalsU Sg
- Wake Up SG
- We are Bangladeshi Expatriates in Singapore
- We Support Us
- Workers Make Possible