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A Day in A Life of A... Construction Worker

By my queenstown on Monday, July 12, 2010 with 2 comments

Sighting foreign workers in food centres, shopping malls or sports complex is certainly not unusual these days. The influx of foreigners has sparked controversy among Singaporeans and many of these misunderstandings can be traced to our lack of knowledge on their lifestyles and personalities. Today we will be spending a day with a Mr Liu Bu Long, who is a foreign worker based in the construction line. Mr Liu is from Jiang Su province in China, as many of his colleagues are. His brother, Mr Liu Jian and he came to Singapore five years ago in search of a better job.

Mr Liu

Mr Liu starts his day at 8a.m with the various metal works, in which he left them on the previous day. Currently, their construction company is working on a Selective Enbloc Redevelopment Scheme Project. The two brothers are fortunate that they are working together on the worksite, as they are able to assist each other whenever possible. When asked, Mr Liu commented that he misses his parents back in his hometown very much. Foreign workers are allowed to visit their hometowns whenever time permits for it, provided that they purchase their own air tickets. He fondly recalls the short but sweet reunion period he spent with his family during the Chinese Lunar New Year a few months back.

He is building flats for us

Mr Liu worked throughout the entire morning with a couple of breaks in between. It was slightly raining but they had to keep working in order to keep up with the tight schedule. At about 12pm, Mr Liu finally had the chance to grab his well deserved lunch. The canteen was small but the Chinese mixed food stall and the drinks stall beside it, was sufficient enough to cater for the entire construction team in the gigantic worksite. MyQueenstown team asked Mr Liu about the intensity and components of his job scope. ‘We handle the exterior construction of the HDB flats. We deal with metal and concrete works which involves the basic construct of these flats. Basically we do whatever the foreman instructs us to!’


After having his lunch, Mr Liu headed straight back to work. The rain had ceased and the sun was shining once again in this bizarre June weather. The physical labour was intense and Mr Liu’s brother can be seen entirely drenched in sweat, while he handles the lifting of huge metal bars from a fully loaded supply truck. Mr Liu explained that the Singaporean construction companies in which he worked before, are reasonably just and fair in the treatment of their foreign workers. They work on a yearly contract renewal basis which they can choose to quit after one year of labour. 

The foreign workers work from 8a.m to 7p.m from Mondays to Fridays and from 8a.m to 5p.m on Sundays, with overtime ending at around 10p.m. Mr Liu disclosed that he earns around $1200-$1700 per month, after the deduction of agent fees. Mr Liu is fairly unhappy with the alleged huge amounts of ‘middle-man’ or agent fees that they are required to pay back in China. Most sentiments from the other foreign workers reflected their concern over the expensive fees required for them to secure a job in Singapore.

Mr Liu's foreman

At about 7p.m, all work had to be wrapped up and the foreign workers headed back to their dormitories in the old building formerly known as the Queenstown Polyclinic in Margaret drive. A flurry of movements followed, as the Chinese foreign workers rushed either to bathe or to have their dinners in the dorm. 

Margaret Drive Dormitory

As the foreign workers are not allowed to cook in the Margaret Drive dorm, they had to either purchase their food from the nearby Cooked food centre, or prepare simple food fares such as instant noodles. Many foreign workers gathered to watch television as their past time in the common area. Others were too exhausted and slept soon after they had eaten and had their baths.

Mr Liu explained that the Margaret Drive dorm was many times better than the one he previously lived in, which was situated in Bukit Batok. ‘It is conducive and quiet place for us in live in. My only complain is that Singapore’s weather is extremely hot all year round!’ Mr Liu told us that honestly that his job scope is extremely intensive as compared to any job back in China. However, he is also paid many notches higher than his counterparts in his hometown.

Toilets at the Dormitory

Security at the Dormitory

Mr Liu has nothing much to distract himself from the harsh daily working cycle, other than looking forward to the paycheck every month and the next visit home. MyQueenstown asked Mr Liu about his future plans and he replied, ‘I hope that everyone will always be healthy and safe. Personally, I will return home if I think that there is sufficient money for my family or when I am not needed anymore!’

Let’s wish Mr Liu and the other foreign workers all the best in their careers. 

Category: A Day in a Life of A...



Ng Hou Seng said...
July 22, 2010 at 9:42 PM

Hi Editor, Please convey my thank you to the Margaret Drive dormitory residents. We're proud to see their contributions in the estate improvement projects. I hope the little goodwill gesture of sheltering them in conducive environment for a good night rest is no big deal.This is our way to show appreciation for their hard work and a token of comfort to dwell in. Now, WSHAC, NTUC & related agencies are performing risk assessment. After settling the live in issue, we're moving on to transporting between venues.Every possible solution to make our workers happy morally, mentally,psycologically & comfortable will be examined.Please be patient for more goodies on the way.Rescue package to relieve their stress & strain toiling in the workplace do not go unnotice by our administrators.
Towards this end, let's join in the Happy Birthday celebrations. I'm penning off now, over to you readers.
Concerned resident,
Ng Hou Seng

Buck Arunachalam said...
November 5, 2011 at 7:56 AM

Being a construction worker is really a tough job. But as long as you're safe and you love what you do, then you're on the right track.

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