Forum: Not all rosy for dormitory operators

We refer to the letters by Dr Yik Keng Yeong (Probe dorm operators' balance sheets before covering their costs, May 13) and Mr Cheng Shoong Tat (Why foot the bill for dorm operators that have profited for years?, May 16).

The transition from the normal operations of foreign worker dormitories into isolation areas overnight has stressed every infrastructure, resource and system the dormitories have in place.

Dormitory operation teams have been working round the clock to implement the additional requirements on-site.

Aggravating this situation is the fact that many people are understandably not keen to work at dormitories, and we are minimising the deployment of staff who are over 60 years old to safeguard their health.

Dormitory operators have had to hire a large pool of additional manpower to keep operations running round the clock, including security guards and personnel to distribute government-catered meals, toiletries and sundries.

Also, additional cleaners are required to ensure the large volume of waste from meal boxes is quickly cleared.

The overtime payments to existing staff have been staggering.

The efforts to contain the virus have resulted in a 30 per cent increase in operating expenses.

With current rental default rates of more than 60 per cent, the dormitory operators are unable to cover the cost increases.

The average dormitory is unable to sustain such expenditure. While some dormitory operators have performed well in the past few years, the dormitory industry, in general, has been suffering from both sluggish occupancy and rates for the past four years.

We are grateful to the Government for the assistance offered during the circuit breaker period and recognise that this support is based on the condition that dormitory operators do not raise rents during this period.

But some added requirements brought on by the pandemic are here to stay, and the increased costs of operations will remain long after the circuit breaker is lifted.

Johnathan Cheah Chi Kong

President

Dormitory Association of Singapore