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17 August 2010

The Holiday Ops

17 August 2010

10 August, 2230 hrs (Sungei Kadut) -- Had a chance to get out on the field with the housing enforcement officers from the Foreign Manpower Management Division (FMMD).  We were headed to inspect to two sites tonight, with our friends from The New Paper, URA and NEA

We proceeded on foot for the final approach


The first stop - No 36 Sungei Kadut Street 1 - is a factory which had been partially converted into a dormitory for foreign workers. It was located at the back, and to reach it, you trek down a dark dirt road.  Overcrowding is clearly a problem.  There was no proper place for wet laundry to be hung to dry, and the owner had installed triple-deck bunk beds, which are clearly unacceptable.

 Poor management and housekeeping led to overcrowding and unhygienic living conditions

The next stop, at No. 38 Sungei Kadut Street 2, housed a small group of foreign workers.  There was no apparent overcrowding here, but the housing officers had major issues with the make-shift container, the rickety access stairway and the surrounding heavy machinery.

 Not overcrowded, but still not acceptable

Most of the workers had come back for the night, after the National Day holiday.  As our housing officers began their inspections, the occasional “Brother, 大哥 (big brother in Mandarin)” or “bhaiya (brother in Bangla)” would be used to break the ice. Different words but all carried the same meaning – we were there to help. It was heartening that they were generally very receptive to our presence. We really appreciated their patience, because during such operations, we have to inspect the validity of every worker’s work permit, his length of stay, and details of his employer.  And with a large number of workers involved, it took up to two hours.

We were also happy to lend a listening ear to the workers.  Some shared that they were homesick, while others had questions about their employment contracts, or what the law says about when salaries are paid.  We try to educate them on their rights and responsibilities, as well as avenues for help through the ministry or the Migrant Workers’ Centre. We hope these little assurances can be helpful and even serve as a lifeline for them.  After all, they are here to forge a better life for their loved ones back home. 

Sometimes, the greatest satisfaction does not lie in the excitement of a late-night surprise inspection, but in the appreciative nods and enthusiastic responses of “人力部, 谢谢你! (MOM, thank you!)”.  Not a bad way to kick off the week! 

"Since 2009, MOM has successfully relocated more than 21,000 foreign workers to proper accommodation. Such housing inspections are a collaborative effort, involving not just MOM but multiple Government agencies such as the URA (land use), SCDF (fire and safety standards) and NEA (environmental health requirements). Employers who fail to provide acceptable accommodation can be warned, offered composition or prosecuted under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act."

MOM Digital Media Team

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