Factory-converted dorms must provide Wi-Fi, lockers, sick bay for foreign workers from next year

Foreign workers inside one of the air-conditioned dorm rooms in ASL Shipyard's factory converted dormitory in Pandan Road on Aug 1, 2016.
Foreign workers inside one of the air-conditioned dorm rooms in ASL Shipyard's factory converted dormitory in Pandan Road on Aug 1, 2016. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - From next year, operators of dormitories in factories or other workplaces will have to meet additional licensing conditions announced by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) on Wednesdsay (Aug 24), in order to raise living standards for foreign workers here.

The rules kick in on Jan 1 and will require operators to provide workers with Wi-Fi, personal lockers, a way to provide feedback on their accommodation and at least one sick bay or contingency plans for infectious disease cases.

These 1,000 or so factory-converted dorms (FCDs), which house about 80,000 workers in total, must already provide basic amenities such as one electrical point per worker, bed frames and clean sanitary facilities.

Since last August, MOM has inspected about 900 FCDs and has taken enforcement action, such as warnings or prosecution, against 160 which were found to be overcrowded, or have poor hygiene standards or other substandard living conditions.

The 50 or so large purpose-built dorms with at least 1,000 beds have to adhere to stricter rules under the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act, which took effect on Jan 1 this year.

Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck said on Wednesday that the new conditions for FCDs will help to ensure workers are better taken care of while they are here, and were decided on after feedback from industry players.

"They are conducive and basic enough that they will help the workers in their day-to-day living," he told some 600 company representatives at a an FCD seminar in the Textile Centre.

Although some companies were worried about the cost and whether the new rules would add to their administrative processes, he said: "It is not to add cost to the operators, but really for the longer-term benefit of the operators because if you take care of the well-being of the workers they will work harder, they will be happier, and they won't go into medical problems or social issues."

Companies will have to provide documents and photographs to show that they are following the rules when they apply for or renew their licences. MOM will also continue to inspect premises regularly.

Mr Teo also said that his ministry will be introducing a new set of awards to recognise exemplary dormitory operators who do more for their residents than what is required, and educate other operators on best practices. The assessment will be done by dorm residents, government agencies and other associations. More details will be announced at a later date, MOM said.