THE STRUGGLES OF MUHAMMAD SUMON

Bangladeshi migrant worker Muhammad Sumon’s case reveals the struggles faced by many migrant workers in Singapore.


On October of 2016, he had an accident resulting to an injured right shoulder, arm, and leg. According to Muhammad Sumon, he was told by his company supervisor that it is all right not to wear a safety harness — this because the company lacks safety equipments for its workers. Confused by the inconsistency of the instructions, and feeling vulnerable about losing his job if he refuse to acknowledge, he insisted even if his safety supervisor is ambivalent towards the idea of working without any safety equipment.

“I do not know what to do. My company supervisor pays me my salary not my safety supervisor. I will follow him (company supervisor), of course,” explained a teary-eyed Muhammad Sumon.

Despite his ordeal, the company did not provide any medical assistant. Having little money and does not have enough to spend for hospitalisation, he carries on with his work bearing the pain rather than lose his job. He worries about being temporarily replaced or permanently removed, so he pretends as if his injuries were not affecting him.

“I walk like this,” demonstrates how he limps during work. “So how? My supervisor should not see this. I will lose my job,” he adds.

It is a very critical and tough situation for Muhammad Sumon working in that shipyard company. He suffers and bears the pain of his reprehensible injuries he got from being a dutiful and docile worker. For long months of enduring the discomfort, nothing was given to him.

Moreover, the exploitation did not end in the disparity between his two supervisors. The company provides work safety equipments such as earplugs, safety boots, protective goggles, and uniforms but only once. If he lose any of the safety equipments or one gets worn out, he will carry the cost withdrawn from his own salary in purchasing a replacement. A pair of safety boots that the company provides only last for several months due to the extensive nature of the job; the cheaper ones that workers buy last shorter.

He broods, “My supervisor told me to use my money to buy equipment. My own money! Now I earn little. How to send money to my family? How to eat?”

For everything Muhammad Sumon needed, there was nothing. The shipyard company he works for arranges lodging for him, although cramped, anything else he shoulders the expenses himself, from blankets to sleeping pillows.

He exclaimed a resounding, “Yes!”, when I asked him if his bereaved story should be heard by many. “Companies like this should stop!” he adds.

I was about to bid for another query, he abruptly end our conversation for the reason he could not bear to impart more of his wistful experience. I respectfully acknowledged his request, and only promised him that there are people willing to stand up for those who does not have a voice.

We bid good bye that humid night after sharing his story. We both broke out in sweat and in tears.

If the migrant workers’ problems are not addressed, more will continue to suffer. More agents and companies will continue to exploit them, and most will get away with it. But if these cases are pushed forward properly and we serve our fellow workers relentlessly, there will be progress.

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