Regulatory framework for large dormitories

Regulatory framework for large dormitories
Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin (in red) enjoying a game of football with some residents of the Westlite Mandai Dormitory after touring the facilities there yesterday.

SINGAPORE - Large dormitories for foreign workers here will come under a regulatory framework, the Ministry of Manpower said yesterday.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that the ministry held a dialogue on Thursday to gather feedback from the likes of the Dormitory Association of Singapore, the Singapore Contractors AssociationLimited and PSA.

More details will be announced “in a few months’ time”, he said.

The framework, first mentioned in last month’s Budget debate, comes on the back of a push for more purpose-built workers’ accommodation in Singapore.

Poor housing standards had initially been suggested as a cause of workers’ unhappiness following the Little India riot last December.

Mr Tan was speaking to the media at the official opening of a foreign worker dormitory in Mandai. It is one of an estimated 12 large purpose-built dormitories – those with more than 6,000 beds – which are likely to come under the new framework.

Housing close to 6,300 workers, the Westlite Mandai Dormitory is jointly owned by Lian Beng Group and Centurion Corporation. It includes facilities such as a cricket court, minimart, air-conditioned gymnasium and free Wi-Fi.

“We appreciate the foreign workers’ contribution to Singapore’s continuing growth and development,” said Mr Tan in his opening address. “It is only right that they are properly taken care of in the course of their employment here, not just in terms of the physical infrastructure, but the way in which the physical infrastructure and services are provided for the workers.”

Mr Tan later joined Westlite Mandai Dormitory’s management and workers in a game of football.

Centurion’s chief operating officer of accommodation business, Mr Kelvin Teo, said a new regulatory framework could “uplift the standard and the image (of dorms) in the eyes of non-governmental organisations and workers’ families”.

Mr Teo, who is president of the Dormitory Association of Singapore Limited, said it has been trying to share input from dorm operators with the authorities.

He added that since the riot, the management has been looking into activities “to keep workers busy” and “keep them engaged on the social side” – such as excursions, sports competitions, and talent shows.

They created the permanent position of a social calendar manager, who from next month will oversee Centurion’s three dormitories.

Indian construction worker Somupillai Krishnamoorthy, 33, said that since moving into the dormitory three months ago, he mostly stays in during his free time, though he sometimes goes to Tekka Centre to meet friends.

He plays carrom and uses the free Wi-Fi after work, but likes the rooms most as they come with kitchens and en suite bathrooms. While queueing for a free health screening at the dormitory yesterday, he said: “It’s like a home.”

joseow@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 19 in The Straits Times.

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