Safety, hygiene lapses at worker dorms

A foreign workers' advocacy and welfare group has found that an employer embroiled in a salary dispute with 20 of his Bangladeshi workers had also failed to provide them with "safe and acceptable" accommodation.

In a statement released yesterday, the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) said it will be urging the authorities to take stern action against the employer, who it did not name but is believed to be Mr Shah Jahan of SJH Trading.

The MWC found the safety and hygiene lapses after visiting the two worker dormitories in Geylang Lorongs 13 and 17 just after midnight yesterday.

Some of the lapses it identified included filthy common areas and sleeping quarters that were poorly ventilated and infested with cockroaches and bedbugs; inadequate sanitary facilities, with about a dozen workers sharing a single toilet and shower in each unit; and housing more workers in each unit than the eight allowed.

The Sunday Times first reported on the plight of these Bangladeshi workers, who were stuck in limbo as they have had their work permits cancelled while their salary claims are being handled.

The MWC also found that Mr Shah Jahan, a permanent resident from Bangladesh who controls three construction companies that hire the workers, had been cooking meals for his entire workforce at the unit in Lorong 13.

During its visit, the MWC found more than 100 packets of that day's breakfast and lunch already cooked and prepared.

"The workers at both premises told our officers that the employer charges each worker $130 per month for the catered food, despite the fact that meals were frequently unconsumable due to their having gone bad," said MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang.

He added that this was "unacceptable", given the "fire and health hazard" of having industrial catering in close proximity to workers' sleeping quarters.

Mr Shah Jahan had told The Sunday Times that his workers wanted to "condemn" his name.

Mr Yeo said there was a "blatant disregard for the potentially disastrous consequences" should an incident of fire or disease occur at the units. He added that the MWC would be putting the employer "on notice", having obtained photographic evidence of the lapses.

He said the MWC will give its findings to the authorities and urge stern action against Mr Shah Jahan "as a clear message of deterrence to other unscrupulous and exploitative employers".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'Safety, hygiene lapses at worker dorms'. Print Edition | Subscribe