Welfare group calls for 'stern action' against employer after finding safety, hygiene lapses at workers' dorms

With little or no storage space provided, workers have no choice but to maximize the use of their personal area to hang clothing, store personal and valuable items as well as work equipment etc. PHOTO: MIGRANT WORKERS’ CENTRE

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

In a statement released on Sunday (Aug 13), the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) said it will be urging the authorities to take stern action against the employer, whom 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 at Geylang Lorong 13 and 17 early on Sunday morning, just after midnight.

Some of the lapses it identified included filthy common areas and sleeping quarters that were poorly ventilated and infested with roaches 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 had 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 Lorong 13 unit.

During its visit, the MWC found more than 100 packets of the next 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 having gone bad," said MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kuang.

He added that this was "unacceptable" given the "fire and health hazard" of having industrial catering in close proximity of 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."

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