SINGAPORE - Foreign workers who were moonlighting as barbers dropped their tools and fled when officers from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and National Environment Agency (NEA) raided the Tuas area yesterday.
Three illegal barbers - two Indians and one Bangladeshi - were arrested for contravening work permit and environmental health regulations.
The barbers, who are actually construction workers, usually turned to their sideline on Sundays when they are free.
With simple tools such as scissors, combs and shavers, they set up makeshift stalls along the pavement of Tuas South Avenue 1, where fellow workers could get a haircut for just $4.
But what would have been a field day for business turned into a nightmare for them yesterday, when more than 15 MOM and NEA officers swooped in at around 12pm.
On seeing the officers, the barbers and two customers took to their heels.
But one customer, Mr Mahamud Kondoka, sat through the whole raid, wearing a barber's gown.
The 45-year-old construction worker said he did not know that such makeshift barbers were illegal.
"I come here to cut hair because it is cheap," said Mr Mahamud, who lives in a dormitory nearby.
When interviewed, the three arrested barbers said they were moonlighting to earn extra money for themselves or their families.
One of them, Mr Turuvala Viswanadham, 24, said: "I cut hair for extra money to makan (eat) or drink."
Another, Mr Das Palash Chandra, 29, said he needed the extra cash as his father fell from a coconut tree while picking fruits and could no longer work as a farmer.
"I come to cut hair on Sunday to send money home to my family," he said.
"I do this job for my family."
The Bangladeshi man is understood to have worked as a barber from 8am to 6pm on Sundays, and served about 10 customers.
This means he would have made about $40 on each Sunday - a boost to the income of $750 he earns each month as a construction worker.
However, moonlighting is illegal, MOM said.
Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, foreign workers should work for only the employer specified in their work permits.
They should not be self-employed or work for another employer for monetary gain.
Those caught doing so may face a fine of up to $20,000 and up to two years in jail.
MOM enforced these rules against 567 moonlighting foreign workers in 2012, and 592 moonlighting foreign workers last year.
They were either prosecuted, fined or warned.
Yesterday, the three illegal barbers were taken to MOM for further questioning.
They are also being investigated by the NEA for offering barber services at an inappropriate site.
Under the Environmental Public Health (Public Cleansing) Regulations, it is an offence for an individual who acts as a barber to carry out his business in areas such as roads, footways and back lanes.
Carrying out the business in common passageways, corridors, stairways and courtyards or landings of any premises is also not permitted.
The maximum penalty is $1,000, $2,000 and $5,000 for the first, second and subsequent convictions, respectively
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