Written Answer by Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, to Parliamentary Question on Reviewing and Uplifting Conditions of Foreign Worker Dwellings in Geylang
Notice Paper No. 119 Of 2015 For The Sitting On 11 May 2015
Questions No. 572 For Oral Answer
MP: Assoc Prof Fatimah Lateef
To ask the Minister for Manpower whether there is a comprehensive and integrated plan with multi-agency inputs to review and uplift the conditions of foreign worker dwellings at Lorongs 1 to 42 of Geylang.
- Private residential properties, including those in Geylang, are covered by existing rules that regulate the rental of properties whether to locals or foreigners. This is to safeguard the well-being of tenants and reduce overcrowding in the neighbourhoods. These rules include standards pertaining to maximum occupancy, fire safety as well as illegal subletting and conversion of premises. The Government takes a serious view of persons who breach these rules.
- For example, under the Planning Act, persons who house more than eight tenants, in private residential properties can be fined up to $200,000. Under the Fire Safety Act, owners who make unauthorised changes that affect the fire safety at their premises, such as illegal partitions, may also be fined up to $200,000, jailed up to two years, or both.
- Correspondingly, the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) requires employers to ensure that their workers are housed in conditions that comply with the relevant agencies’ rules. Employers who neglect this would have violated Work Pass conditions and are subject to a maximum penalty of $10,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment per offence and may be banned from hiring foreign workers.
- Agencies actively enforce these rules, and special attention is paid to higher risk areas such as Geylang. Public officers are empowered to enter premises under specific circumstances for the purposes of conducting an inspection. MOM, SCDF, SPF and URA regularly conduct joint enforcement; and this can be stepped up when necessary. For instance, over the past six months, agencies have systematically inspected more than 600 units known to be housing foreign workers in Geylang. All errant owners or operators of overcrowded properties, and negligent employers, uncovered as a result of these inspections are being taken to task. Agencies will continue to take a targeted, intel-driven approach to prioritise inspections.
- Beyond enforcement, we are also seeking to raise public awareness so as to change behaviour on the ground. For instance, public notices will be placed around Geylang to remind foreign workers and the public of URA’s rules. MOM will also be sending advisory letters to employers, especially those, whose workers stay in Geylang to remind them to ensure that their workers’ housing complies with the relevant rules.
- We urge all relevant parties to be vigilant to ensure that they are not in violation of the law. In particular, homeowners should regularly check their residential properties, and employers should check their workers’ accommodation, to ensure compliance with existing rules and regulations. Anyone with information on overcrowded premises should contact the authorities so that appropriate investigations and enforcement actions can be taken.