It’s a sad predicament when those who work to provide people with things such as food and shelter are also those who are the most overworked and underpaid. For example, The Topiary, a condominium under construction in the Sengkang area of Singapore, made the news for their treatment of the 200 or so workers who had to spend their nights in a cramped, rat-infested basement of a parking garage.

That’s why the future occupants of The Topiary took it upon themselves to show these builders, many of whom came from other countries such as India, how they felt. They surprised the workers, bearing gifts and signs which read “Thank you for building our home.”

According to Shin Min Daily News, workers’ quarters were made up of 10 “rooms” separated by wooden partitions and holding up to 25 men at any one time each. In addition to the vermin found in the car park, the men were also having to use unsanitary toilet facilities. The area was so crowded that Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower launched an investigation.

This certainly didn’t sit well with those who intended to live in The Topiary when it was finished. A group of future residents had already been communicating on Facebook when the news broke and decided that something should be done.

They each chipped in and collected a total of $3,000 (US$2,140). Some of the money was used to buy snacks and drinks to give to all the workers during an impromptu meeting on 31 July as they left the site. Although the amount of food they gave was small, the gesture was said to have made an impact on the workers. Some even took pictures of themselves with the group of residents.

One member of the group, Subir Singh, told media: “They sweat and toil every day for long hours in quite trying conditions, under the heat of the blazing sun or sometimes even in the rain, but they remain under-appreciated by many of us.” He added that he hoped such gestures would catch on to show more people the poor conditions these workers often face.

With the remaining money, the group plans to hold a barbeque in honor of the workers once The Topiary is complete. Group member Alfred Goh said “It is just a small gesture, but we hope it helps boost their morale and shows them that we are grateful to them for building our homes for us.”

Are working environments like these the result of the corporate greed of building companies? Or are consumers to blame for always going for the cheapest price without considering where those savings are coming from? Then again, maybe it’s the government’s fault for allowing such under-regulated trade and immigration that exploitation like this happens to begin with.

The causes and possible solutions to this problem are complex and unclear. However, one thing is for sure: Singapore’s “Ministry of Manpower” is one bad-ass name for a public administrative agency.

Source: Asia One via Stomp (English)
Top Image: YouTube – Steven Prop