Two dorm operators fined for poor living conditions

SINGAPORE - TWO companies were fined after the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) found workers living in unacceptable conditions.

ST9 Pte Ltd was fined $50,000 - the highest fine to date, while Sunhuan Construction Pte Ltd was issued with two $10,000 fines.

377 foreign workers from 12 companies were found residing in poor living conditions during a joint inspection of Sunhuan Construction Pte Ltd's workers' dormitory at Tagore Industrial Avenue in October 2010.

The accomodations had poor ventilation and housekeeping, which compromised their well-being.

MOM received feedback from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), which had fined Sunhuan Construction Pte Ltd for operating an overcrowded and unsafe workers' dormitory at the location.

Investigations revealed that Sunhuan Construction Pte Ltd had provided the accommodations to its subsidiary companies and sub-contractors while being aware that it had broken several rules, including overcrowding.

The site was also operating illegally as a commercial dormitory and was using space that was not approved for accommodation purposes.

Sunhuan Construction Pte Ltd has become the first company to be issued a $10,000 composition fine for abetting other companies in failing to provide acceptable accommodation.

ST9 Pte Ltd was fined after MOM conducted an inspection at three of its factory-converted dormitories at Woodlands Industrial Park.

More than 1,100 foreign workers were found at units which were overcrowded by more than twice the occupant loads. More than 600 workers were found staying on levels that were not approved to be used for housing.

Aw Kum Cheong, Divisional Director, Foreign Manpower Management Division, MOM, said providing acceptable accommodation is the responsibility of the employer, and that MOM will continue enforcement actions against those who fail to do so.

Those who profit from providing unacceptable accommodation will also be penalised.

"Whether they have directly operated the dormitory or acted as an agent on behalf of the operator or employer, they are breaking the law. MOM will continue to enforce against those who do not ensure the well-being of foreign workers," he said.

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations, employers are required to ensure that their foreign workers have acceptable accommodation.

Those who fail to do so can be fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed up to six months per charge under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA).

In addition, the breach will be taken into consideration when the Ministry considers the employer’s subsequent application for Work Permits. Anyone who abets the commission of any offence under the EFMA can also face similar punishment.