Owners of converted dorms urged to do better

A sky garden on the top floor of the ASL Shipping dormitory in Pandan Road. Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck said he was heartened by the standards he saw at the dorm.
A sky garden on the top floor of the ASL Shipping dormitory in Pandan Road. Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck said he was heartened by the standards he saw at the dorm.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Workers inside one of the dorm rooms, which is air-conditioned. The dorm's Wi-Fi routers were upgraded about six months ago to allow the workers to stay in contact with their families back home easily. A sky garden on the top floor of the ASL Shippin
Workers inside one of the dorm rooms, which is air-conditioned. The dorm’s Wi-Fi routers were upgraded about six months ago to allow the workers to stay in contact with their families back home easily.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Manpower Ministry's call comes after workers' group posts pictures of quarters that were dirty and unsafe

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday 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.

The MWC said it had 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 in 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, 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.

The executive director of ASL Shipping, Mr 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Owners of converted dorms urged to do better'. Print Edition | Subscribe