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Illegal barbers raided by MOM officers

Foreign workers who had set up their own makeshift barber stalls under the Bartley Road East viaduct scrambled for cover when MOM raided the area. -TNP
Fabian Koh

Wed, May 02, 2012
The New Paper

NABBED: One of the four foreign workers who was allowed to collect his belongings before being led away.

Hair one minute, gone the next.

Foreign workers who had set up their own makeshift barber stalls under the Bartley Road East viaduct scrambled for cover when the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) raided the area on Sunday.

An MOM spokesman said two Bangladeshi and two Indian nationals were arrested for breaching Work Permit conditions.

The New Paper visited the area after receiving complaints from shops at the nearby Kaki Bukit Avenue 3 industrial area.

One reader who called the TNP hotline said the makeshift stalls were stealing business from legitimate barbers nearby and were also leaving a mess.

National Environment Agency (NEA) officers were on the scene at 11.40am conducting enforcement checks.

The NEA team spotted six foreign workers conducting their business, and rounded them up. Two escaped.

The four caught were issued summons for offences under the Environmental Public Health (Public Cleansing) Regulations.

Offenders can be fined up to $1,000.

The same foreign workers then had a double whammy when MOM officers arrived in a convoy of two vans and a car.

The workers were lined up along the pavement - they were issued summons by the NEA, then handcuffed and arrested by MOM.

The MOM spokesman said that foreign workers should only work for the employer specified in their work permit.

They should not be self-employed or moonlight.

Those caught doing so will face a fine not exceeding $15,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both.

The makeshift stalls were located under a viaduct, on the road divider along Kaki Bukit Avenue 3.

Each of the illegal barber stalls was a simple set-up consisting of just a stool on a canvas mat, weighed down by stones at the four corners.

They were all well-equipped with battery-operated shavers, mirrors, spray bottles, bottles of shaving foam and hair gel.

The haircuts are said to have cost $4 per worker.

TNP understands the arrested men were from the foreign workers dormitory across the road.

The four men were handcuffed, and taken away to collect their belongings from their stalls, before being put in a van and driven off.

Extra money

One of the Bangladeshi workers arrested said he did it to earn some extra money.

"My company no good. The money they give me not enough," he said, his eyes welling up with tears.

"I need to earn more money to send back to my family," the worker, who is not married, said.

The workers said they cut hair every Sunday to make extra money.

Mr Niyas Synul Abdeen, operator of Cut Hare barber shop at the nearby Kaki Bukit Recreation Centre, said: "They are taking a huge cut of my business."

He had been operating for two months now, and had accepted that business would be slow initially. That was until he noticed the illegal stalls two weeks ago.

His shop charges $6 a haircut, which is below the market price of $10, said Mr Niyas. Yet he got only 10 customers a day.

On a bad day, there might even be none at all, he said.

"They leave the dormitory, and before they can even come over, they see the illegal barbers and go to them for a haircut instead," said Mr Niyas.

"I need to pay my rent, which costs $3,500 each month. Then, there are my barbers' salaries." NEA said it will take enforcement action against anyone operating a barber business in an unauthorised area.

"Barbers are to conduct their businesses within shop premises, and not in other areas such as public land or under a flyover," said the spokesman.

An MOM spokesman told TNP: "MOM has been enforcing against such illegal practices by foreign workers, and warns those who have been moonlighting to stop doing so immediately."

Anyone with information on foreign workers moonlighting should call 6438-5122 or e-mail to report the matter.

"I need to earn more money to send back to my family,"

- One of the arrested Bangladeshi workers on why he offered haircuts

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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