Dorm owners don't aim to be caught napping

(Seated from left) Hai Leck human resources manager Jane Lai, engineering and construction general manager Chua Ching Hwa and executive chairman Cheng Buck Poh, with some workers who live at the dorm in Tuas.
Foreign workers (from left) Ahmed Roman, Annam Vinod Kumar and Phyo Khaing Soe playing a game of carrom in the dining area of Hai Leck’s factory-converted dorm. Every last Friday of the month, workers will have a feedback session with the management.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
Foreign workers (from left) Ahmed Roman, Annam Vinod Kumar and Phyo Khaing Soe playing a game of carrom in the dining area of Hai Leck's factory-converted dorm. Every last Friday of the month, workers will have a feedback session with the management.
(Seated from left) Hai Leck human resources manager Jane Lai, engineering and construction general manager Chua Ching Hwa and executive chairman Cheng Buck Poh, with some workers who live at the dorm in Tuas. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

11 operators win awards for providing perks such as Wi-Fi and laundry services

Free laundry services and Wi-Fi, and a weekly delivery of fresh fruit are perks offered at some of Singapore's best factory-converted dormitories (FCDs).

At Hai Leck Holdings' dorm in Tuas, workers can use a $3,000 gym complete with an exercise bike, pull-up machine and weights.

Hai Leck was among 11 operators lauded last night at an inaugural award ceremony for such dormitories. The award was organised by the Ministry of Manpower with the Dormitory Association of Singapore, and Migrant Workers Centre.

Ten foreign workers also showcased photographs of their dormitory life in an exhibition at the event in Suntec City Convention Centre.

There are more than 1,000 FCDs, which are on industrial sites, and they house about 80,000 workers.

New rules to improve the living conditions at these dorms came into effect on Jan 1. Hai Leck, an oil and gas plant maintenance company, used to house its workers in commercial dorms. But they would complain of bedbugs and overcrowding.

About three years ago, it decided to build a dorm for 812 workers at one of its factories in Tuas.

Beyond basic housing, it offers free Wi-Fi in common areas up to a specified time, free laundry services for uniforms and recreational facilities like a gym, which was set up after feedback from workers.

Every last Friday of the month, workers will also have a feedback session with the management.

The workers told The Straits Times they enjoy the company's friendly and open culture and said living conditions have improved.

"Now, we come back from work and can feel peace," said project coordinator Ahmed Roman, 25, from Bangladesh. He uses the gym daily.

Mr Annam Vinod Kumar, 26, a production quality control worker from India, said the toilets are very clean and the dorm is not crowded.

Hai Leck Engineering and Construction general manager Chua Ching Hwa said: "Having good accommodation fosters a sense of belonging. Workers we have trained are more likely to stay and this helps with productivity, safety awareness and work quality."

Thirty operators vied for the FCD award, and the winners were picked for meeting government requirements, good maintenance, extra facilities or activities, engagement with residents and positive feedback from residents.

Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck said at the ceremony his ministry hopes the awards will motivate more operators "to adopt industry-wide good practices''.

"Small touches to improve the housing standards go a long way to improve the well-being of our foreign workers," he added, noting that housing standards are considered when operators apply to renew their permits. All 33 FCDs with permits due for renewal so far this year met the new rules, said the ministry.

These require them to provide free Wi-Fi, personal lockers for each worker, outlets for workers to give feedback, and at least one sick bay or contingency plans to contain infectious diseases.

Piling contractor Quek and Quek Civil Engineering, which houses 190 workers at an FCD at its Kranji fabrication workshop, also received an award. It added gym equipment last month and more Wi-Fi routers for better signal strength in workers' rooms.

It also distributes snacks and drinks daily at worksites, and provides fruit once a week.

Management and workers meet twice a month on paydays, said general manager Wong Bee Chin.

"When they share their stories and family background with you, you can understand their character and abilities better and (the company can) also provide... better job progression pathways," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Dorm owners don't aim to be caught napping'. Print Edition | Subscribe