One year ago, the Malaysian government announced it would impose a lockdown and close its borders to all countries—including neighboring Singapore—to help contain the spread of COVID-19. At the time, more than half of Rockwell Automation’s Singapore plant workforce commuted daily from Malaysia. After leaders contacted every affected employee, more than 70 people volunteered to temporarily relocate to Singapore to help keep production lines running, ensuring the delivery of essential products to Rockwell customers.
One year later, many of those same workers are still living away from home as they patiently wait for the Malaysia/Singapore border to reopen for daily commuting.
“Nothing like this had ever happened before, and I was so surprised that so many of our Malaysian employees were willing to stay,” said Ling Ling Oh, plant manager for Rockwell’s Singapore facility, as she reflected back on that day in March 2020. “Employees who were off that day were calling us stating they wanted to help.”
Rockwell secured hotel rooms so employees could continue to work without worrying about where they would live. Several volunteers anticipated their stay would last a few months. Their commitment and perseverance continue to amaze Oh.
“I have such a strong appreciation for this team,” Oh said. “I realize many are away from their loved ones and could have stayed in Malaysia to work. But they choose to stay in Singapore with us, and I am so grateful for their selflessness and willingness to help.”
Last fall, Rockwell supported displaced Malaysian employees so they could find suitable housing in Singapore. Some Malaysian employees, under the periodic commuting arrangement between the Singapore and Malaysia governments, were able to return to their families for holidays such as Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Christmas, and Chinese New Year. After the celebrations were completed, they returned to Singapore.
“The majority of our Malaysian employees have been with us for five or more years, and they are tremendously loyal,” Oh said. “Through all of this, we have become stronger, helping out and taking care of each other like an extended family.”
Oh said employees connect frequently with family members via video chat and social media. As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more available in Singapore and Malaysia, current restrictions between the two countries are expected to ease. Until then, the team continues to remain patient, dedicated to their work and caring toward the “extended work family”.
“We are all more mindful and patient, and we support each other. We will help each other to see this through,” Oh said. “We are in this together.”
Published April 6, 2021