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    Jan 27, 2014

    Skills first, then work-permit renewal

    IF THE Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) had its way, employers will need to show that they have updated the skills of their workers before getting the green light to renew their permits.

    MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang yesterday called again for such a requirement. The more skilled they are, the more valuable, he said.

    Speaking to MyPaper after the opening of a new centre in Serangoon Road, he said: "Moving forward, we want them to multi-task. But can they really do the job? They need training that will give them qualifications."

    Echoing the sentiment, Mr Lim Swee Say, secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), who was guest of honour at the opening, said that the key challenge is making "better use" of every worker, and treating every worker better.

    Mr Or Toh Wat, group managing director of construction firm OKP Holdings, said that he sends 30 per cent of 600 workers under him for skills upgrading.

    He said this helps him retain workers, but that sometimes higher-skilled workers get poached. He also said that it may be difficult for employers to ensure that workers upgrade their skills, because their knowledge of English may be a hindrance in them getting properly qualified.

    MWC, which has another centre in Geylang, is a tie-up between NTUC and the Singapore National Employers Federation. The organisation has helped more than 9,000 workers since it was set up in 2009. Common issues include disputes over salary.

    The 3,400 sq ft centre in Serangoon Road has eight beds for "emergency" cases. In such cases, workers may need a temporary place to stay after a dispute with their employer. The centre, in a three-storey shophouse, has recreational facilities.

    From March, MWC's new 24-hour hotline 6536-2692 will be in operation.