SINGAPORE: A construction company was fined S$352,500 last Thursday (May 24) for housing its foreign workers in overcrowded, filthy and unsafe conditions, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Tuesday.
Keong Hong Construction had also been barred from employing foreign workers, according to a press release by the Manpower Ministry.
The company was the operator of a construction site temporary quarters at Sembawang Crescent, which had an approved occupancy of 182 foreign workers.
MOM officers, however, found 207 foreign workers living there during an inspection on Mar 8 last year.
Aside from its own workers, Keong Hong was also found guilty of abetting 17 other employers to house their foreign workers in the same quarters, the Manpower Ministry said.
The living space was cramped, with areas for sleeping simultaneously used for drying of laundry and improper storage of food, MOM said.
The foreign workers stayed in 31 makeshift rooms which were "untidy and filthy" with poor ventilation and inadequate lighting which were exacerbated by the overcrowded conditions, according to the ministry.
The rooms were also constructed from zinc sheets and plywood, which did not meet fire safety regulations, it said, adding that bulk and discarded items in the sleeping areas posed a fire hazard to workers.
In addition, the quarters had inadequate and poorly maintained toilet facilities, and there was just one communal bath for more than 200 workers to share in a makeshift bathroom.
"The living conditions compromised the safety and well-being of the workers," MOM said in the press release.
The ministry said that after the inspection, the dormitory operator was ordered to rectify the poor living conditions and comply with the occupancy limit, with the excess foreign workers relocated to other approved accommodations.
In total, Keong Hong pleaded guilty to 47 of 207 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, with the remaining 160 charges taken into consideration for sentencing.
Ms Jeanette Har, MOM's Director of Well-Being Department, said that while the ministry has seen an improvement in the foreign worker housing landscape, some employers and operators continue to have little regard for workers’ safety and well-being.
"MOM will take stern action against those who fall short of their legal responsibilities towards their foreign workers," she stated.
Foreign workers who have issues with their housing conditions should first bring the matter to the attention of their employers, MOM said.
If their employers fail to make improvements to the living conditions, they can seek advice from the Migrant Workers’ Centre by calling +65 6536 2692 or report the matter to MOM at +65 6438 5122.
Members of the public can also report cases confidentially to MOM by calling +65 6438 5122 or emailing email@example.com.