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Errant bosses faking addresses of foreign workers

They state on MOM database the men are in approved housing while putting them up in cheaper places

Published on Jul 27, 2014 8:23 AM
 
This zinc-roof hut at a construction site is shared by seven workers. Housing workers in such places is much cheaper than with approved dorms. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Errant bosses have been listing false addresses on a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) online database while housing their foreign workers in sub-standard conditions.

They declare that the men are living in approved housing such as purpose-built dormitories, while actually putting them up in cheaper places such as shophouses, factory-converted dorms or construction site quarters. It comes down to money, said Ms Debbie Fordyce, a volunteer at welfare group Transient Workers Count Too.

A place at a dorm, with amenities like mini-marts and basketball courts, costs about $300 a month. But housing workers at construction sites can be free, while a month's stay in a shophouse is about $200.

Industry players who spoke to The Sunday Times said bosses are willing to be dishonest as they know it is difficult for MOM to check.

 
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Background story

WHAT MINISTRY SAYS

About 2,100 employers have been warned or fined by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in the past two years for offences relating to the online system to register foreign worker addresses, said a ministry spokesman.

A dozen employers were charged in court and fined a total of $119,000.

However, The Sunday Times understands that most were taken to task for not updating their workers' addresses and not for false declarations on the Online Foreign Worker Address Service website.

A spokesman said the ministry regularly checks the database for accuracy. He added that employers should not use MOM's online database to check for vacancies in dormitories. Bosses should contact dorm operators directly.

MOM is also working with dorm operators to "better reconcile their tenant records" with the ministry's data.

On the issue of employers facing problems updating their workers' addresses on the website, the spokesman said it may not necessarily be due to false registrations.

Instead, it may be due to other employers having yet to update their workers' addresses after moving out of the dorms, said the spokesman. As a result, the dorms are still full based on MOM records.

"When employers find that they cannot update the addresses... they will be triggered to contact MOM directly and we will facilitate the address update," he said.

Employers who intentionally provide false information of their foreign worker addresses can be fined up to $20,000 and/or jailed two years.

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