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Singapore civil society calls for immediate ban on ferrying migrant workers on lorries, citing safety concerns

A coalition of 57 local civil society organizations and community groups is urging the Singapore government to ban the use of lorries for transporting migrant workers.

The recent statement follows a tragic incident in July, highlighting the need for safer transport alternatives. Statistics reveal alarming risks, with 58 workers lost their lives in lorries’ accidents between 2011 and 2020.



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:

  1. Betelgeuse
  2. City Book Room
  3. Confessions of a Grab Driver
  4. Deekshiit Government Fanart
  5. Dink Collective
  6. Eastside Mutual Aid
  7. End FGC SG
  8. Ethos Books
  9. For the Children SG
  10. Function 8
  11. Heckin’ Unicorn
  12. Here With You- Migrants Helpline
  13. Humans Not Cargo
  15. Journey By Lorry
  16. Left SG17. Lepak Conversations
  17. MaidforMore
  18. MARUAH
  19. Migrant Dancers Singapore
  20. Migrant Death Map
  21. Migrant Mutual Aid
  22. Migrant Workers Singapore
  23. Minority Voices
  24. My Queer Story SG
  25. NTU Divest
  26. NTU Financial Aid Friends
  27. Plural Supply
  28. Psychosocial Support Community
  29. Quasa SG
  30. Queer and Minoritised
  31. Rachel Pang Comics
  32. River Valley Irregulars
  33. SG Bus Drivers
  34. SG Climate Rally
  35. SG Riders
  36. SGP Group
  37. Sick and Tired
  38. Singapore Migrant Friends
  39. Singapore Unbound
  40. Students For a Fossil Free Future
  41. The Arts and Civil Space
  42. The Chai Baba
  43. The Glass Hut
  44. The Healing Circle SG
  45. The Projector
  46. Think Centre
  47. Transformative Justice Collective
  48. UequalsU Sg
  49. Wake Up SG
  50. We are Bangladeshi Expatriates in Singapore
  51. We Support Us
  52. Workers Make Possible
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