Utoc wins Dormitory Award again for quality housing

Above: Utoc's dormitory in Boon Lay can house about 240 workers Left: Dormitory assistant Paliyandi Meganathan, 34, arranges the cleaned garments for workers to collect. Dorm residents do not have to pay extra for laundry service. Left: Welder Sheikh
Above: Utoc's dormitory in Boon Lay can house about 240 workers ST PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO
Above: Utoc's dormitory in Boon Lay can house about 240 workers Left: Dormitory assistant Paliyandi Meganathan, 34, arranges the cleaned garments for workers to collect. Dorm residents do not have to pay extra for laundry service. Left: Welder Sheikh
Above:Left: Dormitory assistant Paliyandi Meganathan, 34, arranges the cleaned garments for workers to collect. Dorm residents do not have to pay extra for laundry service.ST PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO
Above: Utoc's dormitory in Boon Lay can house about 240 workers Left: Dormitory assistant Paliyandi Meganathan, 34, arranges the cleaned garments for workers to collect. Dorm residents do not have to pay extra for laundry service. Left: Welder Sheikh
Above: Welder Sheikh Rasel stores his food in a big fridge at the dormitory.ST PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO

When welder Sheikh Rasel, 28, returns to his dormitory after a long day of work on Pulau Bukom, he does not need to worry about washing his uniform or cooking his own meal - all of these are catered for at the dormitory provided by his employer Utoc Engineering.

The arrangement has freed up time for him to make calls to his family in Bangladesh, or brush up on his English, he told The Straits Times.

For the second year running, engineering and construction firm Utoc Engineering was among the winners of the Dormitory Awards given out yesterday.

The awards recognise exemplary efforts in managing foreign worker housing.

In an interview with ST ahead of the event, Utoc Engineering's operation director Tan Nkai Tsen said the firm used to house its workers in purpose-built dormitories around Singapore. But it faced challenges such as operators raising rates by 10 per cent each year.

Coupled with other transportation and housing issues its staff faced, Utoc decided to set up its own factory-converted dormitory in Boon Lay.

Utoc's facility, which opened in 2016, can house about 240 workers. Residents get to stay for free, do not have to pay extra for laundry service, and their meals are subsidised.

 

The dormitory also has sports facilities that they can use. Each room has appointed leaders as well, who give feedback to a dormitory manager.

"We want them to be well physically and psychologically," said safety manager Lourdes Ted Sherman, who noted how going home to dirty lodging or toilets can add to workers' stress. "When they experience such stress, it may affect their work."

Besides providing a home away from home, Utoc plans to add a training centre to its dormitory to help workers upgrade skills as well, starting next year. It is also expanding its dormitory's capacity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2018, with the headline 'Utoc wins Dormitory Award again for quality housing'. Print Edition | Subscribe