Blue-Collar workers


There is a MRT worksite beside my estate, part of the Stage 4 Circle Line construction. Excavation work and other heavy work are in progress in ernest. The workers on site wear safety boots and hardhats. Their works are mainly physical. They work even when there is a drizzle and at most time in the hot and humid climate. Mud and grease are associated with excavation work. Soggy ground and messiness are normal.


Their 8 am routine starts with an assembly, where the foreman briefs his men. Their assembly is conducted in the open space under the sky. If the foreman wants to brief them on something that requires visual drawings, there is no meeting room with fixed white-board mounted on the wall. Instead, they improvised by having 2 workers holding the mobile whiteboard. The foreman proceeded to write and draw on this board and explaining at the same time. The assembly watched and listened. The 2 workers who held the white-board craned their necks to see what were on the white-board. The foreman had to raise his voice as he fought with the noises from the busy road beside the work-site. Contrast this with the office environment; the white-collar workers have it better and can sit in the comfort of an air-con meeting room with all the necessary visual aids.


Another 8 am assembly routine is the physical exercises which the workers do to limber up to be ready for the day’s physical work. Most of the office workers just go straight to their personal computer and start reading e-mail at the start of the work-day. They are desk-bound throughout most of the day.


During lunch time, the workers trooped to the hawker centre nearby. You can see their work-overalls that were covered with mud, grease, paint, etc. They were happy to break for a meal. This meal will last them for the rest of the day with labour intensive work.


One day, I was having my meal at the hawker centre and I shared the same table with 3 workers. They went for economical rice and Nasi Briyani, piled to the brim with rice, vegetables and meat items. These meals will cost them about $2.50 to $3.00. Simple and cheaper than any air-con foodcourt. Their conversation at that time was to share what they had been doing in the morning. No talk of how the stock market was faring for the morning or the impending GST increase.


After the meal, I walked past a void deck of a point- block flats. I saw 2 workers taking a nap on the floor, oblivious of people passing by. They seemed not the least worried sleeping in the open. Will one do it if one has wallet and possession on him?


I took some time off from work recently and decided to paint part of my house which was neglected for many years. The physical work was back-breaking and muscle aching. I hurt myself and bruised easily and had been clumsy. I cannot stand the sweat, body odour and dirty body resulting from the work. A quick bath is essential and must be right away not any later into the night.


I feel for these blue-collar workers and they do the jobs which most of us will gladly avoid. My respect for them is certain.


Written on 1/25/2007 11:47 AM


Copyright © 2007, the author known as LKT in Singapore.


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