MOM urges operators of factory converted dormitories to raise housing standards of foreign workers

Workers hanging their laundry inside the ASL Shipyard dormitory along Pandan Road.
Workers hanging their laundry inside the ASL Shipyard dormitory along Pandan Road. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Late shift workers having a rest inside their ASL Shipyard dormitory along Pandan Road.
Late shift workers having a rest inside their ASL Shipyard dormitory along Pandan Road. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Monday (Aug 1) called on operators of what it calls "factory converted dormitories" (FCDs) to improve the housing conditions of foreign workers.

FCDs are dormitories for foreign workers that are housed in partially converted factories or other workplaces.

Last Friday, foreign worker advocacy group the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC), published photos of lapses that it observed during visits to FCDs.

MWC claimed to have discovered instances of unhygienic sleeping quarters with bedbugs and other insects, dangerous overloaded electrical points and dirty and poorly maintained cooking areas.

It said in the Facebook post that it had shared the findings with the MOM.

Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck, who oversees foreign manpower management matters, yesterday visited an FCD at a Pandan Road shipyard, operated by ASL Shipping, which houses 226 foreign workers.

He said: "We are looking into MWC's suggestions.

"I'm heartened to know that for this company, ASL Shipping, that despite difficult times they are still putting workers' welfare as the top priority and will not take shortcuts and will not cut down on any of the amenities.

"The place they sleep in is air-conditioned and you don't see many (dormitory operators) providing that."

However he added that from feedback the MOM had gathered about other dormitories here, there are some that have "a big gap to close in terms of meeting just the normal standard".

ASL Shipping's dormitory manager Anthony Tan said: "The welfare of the workers is my responsibility, if there are any problems we will try our best to help."

Despite challenges such as competition and rising costs, the company upgraded the dorm's wi-fi routers about six months ago at a cost of more than $5,000 to allow the workers to stay in contact with their families back home easily.

Executive director of ASL Shipping Ang Kok Leong said: "The shipping industry is challenging at the moment, but the safety and welfare of the workers is something the company cannot compromise on."

Mr Teo will meet FCD operators at an Aug 24 seminar to discuss dormitory management issues and regulatory housing standards as well as bring up good practices that were observed during inspections.

There are about 1,000 FCD operators in Singapore, housing an estimated 80,000 foreign workers.