Foreign workers in dormitories now have an app to alert MOM of their living conditions

One of the dormitories in the Greyform Building. With the new application, foreign workers living in dormitories can now provide feedback by uploading photos, and alert their dormitory operators and MOM of the issues that they face. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Foreign workers living in dormitories can now inform the Manpower Ministry (MOM) of their living conditions with the DormWatch application the ministry rolled out on Wednesday (Sept 12).

The app allows workers to provide feedback by uploading photos they have snapped, and to alert their dormitory operators and MOM of the issues that they face.

At an event on Wednesday, Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said: "At the receiving end, the dormitory operators will be able to see the feedback by their residents and provide details on how the issues have been resolved."

"They can also communicate directly with the foreign worker through the app," he added.

The ministry will only step in if there is an impasse among parties.

Although MOM did not highlight any incident that prompted the introduction of such an app, there have been several cases of workers being housed in unhygienic or overcrowded living conditions.

In March last year, a construction firm was slapped with 80 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act for housing 60 foreign workers in rat-infested dormitories at a construction site near Commonwealth Avenue and Ghim Moh Link. It was subsequently fined $156,000.

Last year, 1,176 offenders were caught flouting foreign worker housing rules.

Generally, workers are advised to first inform their employers of issues with their accommodation. If their employers do not improve the conditions, workers are urged to contact the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) or report the matter to MOM.

There are about 50 purpose-built workers' dormitories here and over 1,000 factory-converted ones.

Mr Lawrence Lee, business development director of S11 Dormitories, which runs Changi Lodge 2, said there will always be some who flout the rules.

But with DormWatch, he added: "Such feedback channels can help to highlight operators who try to cut corners."

Mr Zaqy hopes the app will encourage operators to interact with residents frequently and work with them to improve living conditions.

On Wednesday, he gave awards to operators of 17 dormitories who provide comfortable living spaces for foreign workers here.

Residents of award winner Changi Lodge 2 have been able to give feedback electronically since the start of this year using an S11 Dormitories digital platform.

Apart from maintaining the quarters' cleanliness, staff of S11 Dormitories have also added gaming consoles, following workers' suggestions.

"We are also able to task the cleaning of rooms on our digital platform. When this is done, the cleaner takes a picture and uploads it to show that it is completed," said Mr Lee.

He added that the platform allows staff to keep track of who is living in each room and provides for the quick retrieval of workers' contracts.

Changi Lodge 2, located in Tanah Merah Coast Road, is painted in bright colours, featuring murals drawn by its residents on the walls.

Staff try to encourage social mixing by having workers of different nationalities live together as well.

"You don't want workers to come back and feel like they are in a camp, or being locked up," said Mr Lee.

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, chairman of MWC, said migrant workers have come a long way to help build Singapore and the economy.

"So it is only right that we look after their physical and emotional well-being while they are here, both at the workplace and in the places where they live and socialise," he added.

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