New app keeps MOM in the loop on dorm woes

S11 Dormitories' business development director Lawrence Lee using the company's digital platform with foreign workers Nachiyappan Mohan (far left) and Khaladur Rahman Omar Ali. The platform allows residents of the firm's dormitories to give feedback
S11 Dormitories' business development director Lawrence Lee using the company's digital platform with foreign workers Nachiyappan Mohan (far left) and Khaladur Rahman Omar Ali. The platform allows residents of the firm's dormitories to give feedback electronically.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Foreign workers can upload photos to alert dorm operators, ministry on living conditions

Foreign workers living in dormitories can now inform the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) of their living conditions with a DormWatch application it rolled out yesterday.

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

At an event yesterday, 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."

The ministry will step in only 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 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 later 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.

RIGHT THING TO DO

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.

MR YEO GUAT KWANG, chairman of the Migrant Workers' Centre, on caring for foreign workers in Singapore.

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."

Yesterday, Mr Zaqy gave awards to operators of 17 dormitories who provide comfortable living spaces for foreign workers here.

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

 
 

Apart from maintaining cleanliness at the quarters, S11 Dormitories staff have also added gaming consoles over the years, following the workers' suggestions. "We are very much paper-free... We save on operations this way because it makes us very efficient," said Mr Lee.

"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."

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

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, chairman of MWC, said migrant workers have come from afar to help build Singapore's economy.

"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," Mr Yeo added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2018, with the headline 'New app keeps MOM in the loop on dorm woes'. Print Edition | Subscribe