SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Monday (Aug 1) called on operators of factory-converted dormitories (FCDs) to raise housing standards and improve foreign workers' housing conditions.
MOM said in its press release that about 80,000 foreign workers in Singapore live in such dormitories currently.
"Factory-converted dormitories (are) one type of approved housing for foreign workers in Singapore. FCD operators, like other dormitory operators, have a legal obligation to ensure that they provide their resident workers with a safe and secure living environment," the ministry said.
ASL Shipyard has been lauded for prioritising workers' welfare. Amenities at its dorm include at a gym, foosball tables, feet massagers and table tennis facilities. (Photo: Loke Kok Fai)
MOM added that in the past year, it has inspected about 850 FCDs. Around 150 did not meet the required standards as they were overcrowded and poorly kept.
These standards fall under Condition 2 of the Employment of Foreign Manpower Regulations.
It states that employers "shall provide safe working conditions and take such measures as are necessary to ensure the safety and health of the foreign employee at work. The employer shall also ensure the foreign employee has acceptable accommodation. Such accommodation must be consistent with any written law, directive, guideline, circular or other similar instrument issued by any competent authority."
MOM took the errant operators to task and followed up with inspections to ensure corrective measures were taken.
It has also worked with FCD operators by educating them on basic housing requirements and urging operators to meet these standards, it said.
"MOM had also provided FCD operators with a self-audit checklist, in addition to regular bulletins to draw their attention to good and bad practices within the industry," the media release said.
Where basic standards are found to be lacking, the ministry said it would take "appropriate enforcement action against the dormitory operators".
PRIORITISING WORKER HAPPINESS IMPROVES PRODUCTIVITY: ASL SHIPYARD
For one company, prioritising worker happiness and health does not just improve safety at work, but also improves productivity. ASL Shipyard was cited by Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck as one that places workers' welfare as the utmost priority.
"If every individual worker is able to have that kind of energy every morning to go out and do what they're required to do, they know that it's being recognised by the bosses, which is - to me - very important. And on our part, we ensure that the workers' welfare on our side here in the dormitories is also being taken care of - whatever games, whatever items that they require," said Mr Anthony Tan, dormitory and facilities building manager at ASL Shipyard.
“FCD operators have a duty to provide decent accommodation for workers. The workers deserve a proper place to stay after a hard day’s work. I am heartened to note that many FCD operators take this responsibility seriously," said Mr Teo, following a visit to ASL's dormitory on Monday.
Minister of State Teo Ser Luck visiting a workers' room. (Photo: MOM)
"MOM will continue with our engagement and enforcement efforts to ensure this. The Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) recently suggested to MOM that more can be done to encourage FCD operators to raise housing standards. We are looking into MWC’s suggestions.”
MWC had found filthy cooking areas, unclean toilets and camped sleeping quarters with bug infestations over the last year in its visits to FCDs. In a Facebook post on Jul 29, the centre said it shared the findings with MOM, adding that there is "a need to set standards for smaller, factory-converted dormitories".
MOM added that Mr Teo will meet FCD operators on Aug 24 to discuss dormitory management issues, including regulatory housing standards and good practices which have been observed.