Workers at Punggol site told to vacate makeshift dorm

Hundreds of workers were told to move out of a makeshift dormitory in Punggol yesterday after checks by the authorities on the state of their living quarters.

The poor living conditions at the dorm, on one of the worksites of a housing project, were reported in The Straits Times on Tuesday.

Yesterday, when The Straits Times visited the dorm at about 7pm, workers were seen milling outside the site with luggage.

Workers said that men wearing official-looking tags had visited the dorm to check on their rooms, drains and toilets over the past few days. And yesterday at about 4pm, the men were told by the construction firm to vacate their rooms and get ready to move to other dorms in Mandai and Kranji.

A Manpower Ministry (MOM) spokesman said its enforcement officers conducted an inspection of housing quarters in Punggol yesterday morning "to ascertain the workers' living conditions".

Employers "are required to provide acceptable accommodation for their foreign workers", it said.

Those who fail to do so face a fine of up to $10,000, and/or up to 12 months in jail, for each foreign worker housed in poor conditions. They will also be barred from applying for new work passes or renewing existing ones.

MOM also encouraged the public to report such cases so that it can investigate and take action.

There are 200,000 beds in purpose-built dorms with facilities like foodcourts. But many foreign workers continue to be housed in quarters with poor conditions.

The Punggol dorm had broken urinals and choked toilet bowls. Workers also had to bathe using water that was meant to clean machinery, because of the poor shower facilities there.

But a supervisor based at the site said yesterday that the company is making changes.

"The company is trying to make things better for the workers by moving them to another dorm. The conditions here need to improve."

This article was first published on August 21, 2014.
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