Coronavirus: MOM steps up checks at factory-converted dorms for workers

A room in a floating accommodation facility at Tanjong Pagar Terminal that is temporarily housing foreign workers. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has stepped up inspections at factory-converted dormitories (FCDs) to ensure living conditions are acceptable in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Between last Saturday and yesterday, MOM officers inspected more than 600 such dorms in Sungei Kadut, Tuas and other locations across Singapore.

FCDs are industrial or warehouse developments that have been partially converted into dormitories.

According to MOM, the vast majority of the FCDs inspected have instituted safe distancing measures and health checks for their residents, who were observed to have no well-being or salary issues.

Minor lapses were found in 57 FCDs, with the most prevalent issue being a lack of sickbays and isolation areas. MOM also found the cleanliness levels of some FCDs to be unacceptable and instructed the operators to rectify the issues immediately ahead of follow-up inspections.

MOM also conducted separate inspections yesterday to ensure migrant workers are observing circuit breaker measures. At Tuas View Square, inspectors found 24 work pass holders eating, drinking and gathering in groups.

MOM has revoked all their work passes and permanently barred them from working in Singapore.

In a separate advisory issued yesterday, the ministry said employers must keep work pass holders in their residences as much as possible. "During this period, employers must ensure prompt payment of salary and the well-being of their workers," it added, stressing that it will take action against employers and work pass holders for any irresponsible practices and behaviour.

The advisory covers FCDs; construction temporary quarters, or transient structures used for housing employees within a construction site; and temporary occupation licence quarters, or government-licensed temporary quarters on a plot of land near a construction site.

The new measures include ensuring there is no inter-mixing of workers at the dormitory or temporary quarters. Employers should cater meals for their workers during this period, said MOM, so that they need not leave their quarters. They should also monitor their workers' health and take their temperatures twice daily.

They should schedule time slots - ideally at least an hour - for workers to leave their rooms, during which they should not mix with residents from other blocks and, where possible, from other floors.

Other than this, workers should stay only in their rooms, where they should maintain a distance of at least 1m from one another.

During their allotted time outside, workers may leave the dormitory to buy essentials or to run important errands, such as remitting money.

MOM advised workers to download and activate the TraceTogether app on their smartphones.

In response to the advisory, the Singapore Contractors Association Limited said dorm operators or employers will have to arrange for these measures to be implemented correctly.

Yesterday, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said that the first batch of 31 healthy foreign workers have been moved into one of three floating accommodations at Tanjong Pagar Terminal. About 1,300 workers will be moved there in batches. Each room there will have two to three people to minimise interaction.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: MOM steps up checks at factory-converted dorms for workers. Subscribe