MOM helps stranded workers find lodging

Malaysian workers checking in at a temporary relief centre managed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development at Jurong East, which was repurposed from a sports hall.
Malaysian workers checking in at a temporary relief centre managed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development at Jurong East, which was repurposed from a sports hall.PHOTO: GRACE FU / FACEBOOK

From securing accommodation for about 10,000 workers and defraying the costs to house them to even patrolling the streets to look for stranded workers, officials across different agencies led by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Singapore worked round the clock for three days after Malaysia announced a lockdown.

MOM yesterday provided details of the steps it took to ensure housing for Malaysian workers stranded in Singapore.

First, a multi-agency team - 25 officials from MOM, the Singapore Tourism Board, Housing Board and their parent ministries - met on Monday night, soon after Malaysia said it would stop its citizens from leaving the country to contain the spread of Covid-19.

With Malaysia's movement control order starting from Wednesday until March 31, the team here did not have a lot of time.

Working round the clock for three days out of MOM's service centre in Bendemeer Road, it coordinated the demand for lodging from employers while calling hotels and dormitory operators to hunt down rooms.

The efforts paid off, and the team was able to help about 2,000 employers find proper accommodation for their workers from Monday night itself. But a small number were still left without housing.

Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu said on Facebook yesterday that a few workers had to spend the night in a repurposed sports hall in Jurong East as a result.

News reports of stranded workers, including one by news site Today on Wednesday, said that workers had to "sleep rough" at Kranji MRT station.

An MOM spokesman said Today's article "did not present a full picture of the ground situation as a result of Malaysia's movement control order".

Some of these workers were found by MOM and the police, which had stepped up patrols across Singapore to check for Malaysian workers without short-term accommodation. "These included the 14 workers found at Kranji MRT station," MOM said.

They were then taken to the sports hall, which the Ministry of Social and Family Development said was set up to house workers temporarily the morning after Malaysia's announcement.

Referencing the report, Ms Fu said the workers at the sports hall, which is in her Yuhua ward, were provided with basic necessities such as toiletries, toilet paper and a towel, as well as a sleeping bag.

MOM added that the "vast majority" have since been put up with friends, relatives, hotels and dormitories, among other arrangements.

In a statement, MOM reminded employers that they should have their workers return to Malaysia if they are not needed. Otherwise, they must find proper accommodation for them.

The ministry also announced yesterday that eligible employers can apply for temporary support of $50 per affected worker per night, capped at 14 nights, to cover the extra costs of housing Malaysian workers who normally reside in Malaysia, from Wednesday to the end of the month.

Around 300,000 Malaysians work in Singapore, about half of whom, under normal circumstances, would commute daily.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2020, with the headline 'MOM helps stranded workers find lodging'. Subscribe