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You can’t ‘hack’ your way to labour rights and equality

This week: Designers try to provide solutions to a problem that's really about rights and dignity, and Singapore looks ahead to a debate in Parliament on the country's position on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

It’s not been a very good week on the personal front. Maoler, the family cat who I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, has gone over the rainbow bridge. I’d had a nice little streak of happy well-being for a while, but am back to burn-out now. So apologies if this issue of the newsletter is a little deflated… 😮‍💨

It’s not about devising hacks! Fed up sia.

The Straits Times ran a feature on well-intentioned designers who have come up with ideas that they hope will improve the working conditions of migrant workers. Many of the featured designs had to do with ‘improving’ the way workers are ferried in the backs of lorries. The article glosses over potential alternatives to lorry transport with uncritical and highly problematic comments like this:

"There have been some suggestions, such as providing workers with subsidised EZ-link passes on the MRT and buses, but this poses a problem for other commuters, who may not be comfortable sitting next to construction workers returning to their dormitories grimy and sweaty after a long day of hard labour."

Migrant workers are transported by lorries that are not meant to be used for this purpose because there is an exemption in the Road Traffic Act that allows this. Different passenger safety rules apply to everyone else, and it would be considered outrageous and unfair to suggest that public transport cannot be an option for anyone else in Singapore just because they are sweaty or dirty.

This is fundamentally an issue not just about safety (although that’s a big deal) but also about discrimination, dignity and equality. Migrant workers should be treated according to the same standards of decency and humanity that we should treat everyone with. This is not something that we can design hack our way out of. Check out HOME’s post about this on Instagram.

Singapore on the Israel-Hamas conflict

Parliament is set to debate our country’s position on the Israel-Hamas conflict in early November. Three PAP MPs have filed a motion on the issue reiterating Singapore’s position on the need for a two-state solution. There have also been questions about what Singapore can do to ensure that the humanitarian aid we’ve donated can reach those most in need, and the support that can be offered by religious teachers and mosques to the local Muslim community.

As mentioned in the last newsletter, the Workers’ Party has also made its position clear:

"We call on Israel to reject the collective punishment of innocent civilians, cease all military operations in the Gaza Strip and to allow for the transit of humanitarian aid into Gaza forthwith. At the same time, we call for the immediate return of all Israeli hostages captured in Hamas’ military operation in Southern Israel on 7 Oct 2023. De-escalation by all parties must be followed by a withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories, followed by serious negotiations to achieve a lasting peace in the Holy Land; a peace that legitimises the existence of the state of Israel, and establishes a viable Palestinian state."

Is that who we think it is? 👀

K Shanmugam’s defamation suit against Lee Hsien Yang is tootling along and will be heard in chambers next week. But what’s this other case we see against TikTok? The hearing details for 2 November says that it’s a POHA (Protection from Harassment Act) case. I’m not the first to pick up on this, but no one seems to have more details about what the case is about. Curious.

Thank you for reading! As always, feel free to forward this weekly wrap to anyone you like, and spread the word about this newsletter!