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Written Answer by Mrs Josephine Teo Minister for Manpower to PQ on measures to ensure compliance by dormitory operators and landlords

NOTICE PAPER NO. 2135 OF 2020 FOR THE SITTING ON 5 JUNE 2020
QUESTION NO. 3666 FOR WRITTEN ANSWER


MP: Miss Cheryl Chan Wei Ling

To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) apart from periodic checks by the enforcement team, what more will be done to ensure that dormitory operators and landlords that provide lodging for foreign workers comply with rules for communal living; and (b) whether there will be tougher penalties for failure to comply such as the suspension of their operating licence and repossession of the rental flats or houses.

Answer

  1. The Inter-Agency Taskforce is systematically testing to clear all dormitories of COVID-19 infections in the coming months. Before residents are allowed to resume work, all parties, including dormitory operators, employers and workers, are required to implement safe management and safe living measures to ensure migrant workers work and live in a safe environment. 
  2. Besides implementing safe management measures to prepare for the re-opening of workplaces, employers are also required to cooperate with the dormitory operators to facilitate the testing and clearing of their workers in the dormitories. These include confirming and updating the addresses of their workers in the Online Foreign Worker Address Service (OFWAS) and working with the dormitory operators stagger pick-up and drop-off time and provide dedicated transport for their workers to and from the workplaces.
  3. Dormitory operators are required to implement safe living measures to minimise the risk of transmissions in the dormitories. These measures include tracking the entry and exit of residents and visitors in and out of the dormitories, limiting the inter-mixing of residents such as by staggering the use of common facilities, and strengthening the health surveillance of dormitory residents to identify residents who display symptoms of infection and isolate them quickly. In addition, we are working with the dormitory operators to progressively reduce the density of the existing dormitories by re-housing workers in the new temporary dormitories as they come online. This will allow the existing dormitories to provide more living space per resident to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases in the dormitories.
  4. Finally, workers also have an important role to play to ensure that rules for communal living are complied with. For example, they are responsible to monitor their health conditions daily, abide by the rules set up by the dormitory operators to minimise physical interactions with residents from other blocks, and promptly report to their dormitory operators and employers if they are feeling unwell.
  5. To help employers and dormitory operators to understand and implement these measures effectively, MOM has provided relevant advisories and checklists and conducted briefings for the dormitory operators. To help foreign workers better understand their responsibilities, we have produced simple communications materials, such as infographics, in the workers’ key native languages for employers and dormitory operators to educate their workers and residents with. We have also tapped on mobile applications for foreign workers and foreign worker ambassadors from the Migrant Workers’ Centre to reach out to the workers.
  6. Besides engagement and outreach efforts, there will be penalties and consequences on each party if they do not do their part. Employers who fail to fulfil their responsibilities may be fined up to $10,000 or jailed up to 12 months, or both under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA). They may also be debarred from employing foreign workers.
  7. Dormitory operators who fail to put in place safe living measures at the dormitories can face a fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment term of up to 12 months, or both, per contravention. Operators licensed under the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act (FEDA) may also have their operating licence revoked. Private property owners or landlords who have not complied with these measures will not be allowed to rent out their properties or flats to foreign workers.
  8. To ensure that workers comply with the safe living measures in the dormitories, dormitory operators are to set clear house rules and corresponding consequences for non-compliance. All cases of non-compliance have to be reported to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Workers who repeatedly breach house rules pose a risk to others and may have their work passes revoked.