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Two Construction Companies Fined $180,000 in Total for False Declaration and Foreign Worker Housing Offences

  1. Two construction companies, 3S Solid Surface Pte Ltd and Sing Solid Surface Pte Ltd (“the companies”), were convicted in the State Courts yesterday on 3 March 2016 for furnishing false information to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) with respect to the foreign workers’ addresses in the MOM’s Online Foreign Worker Address Service (“OFWAS”), and housing their foreign workers (FWs) in poor and unsafe conditions.
  2. The companies pleaded guilty to a total of 18 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA), and were fined $180,000. Another 30 charges were taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing.
  3. MOM has debarred the employers from hiring foreign workers. They will also not be able to renew the passes of their existing workers.

    Providing False Information in OFWAS
  4. Investigations revealed that from July 2007 to June 2014, the companies provided false information to the Controller of Work Passes, through the Online Foreign Worker Address Service (OFWAS)1 system.
  5. The two companies, which had a common director, used their factory premises at 10 Admiralty Street to house their foreign workers. Being a factory premises, OFWAS does not accept the address as a workers’ dormitory. To overcome this, the companies fraudulently gave false information and registered the 24 FWs to be residing in other residential addresses. The workers have never resided in these other premises.

    Poor and Unsafe Living Conditions
  6. Investigations also revealed that in addition to the 24 FWs who resided in the illegally converted factory dormitory, the companies also separately housed 17 other workers in the premises from November 2012 to July 2014. The companies did not obtain the requisite approval from Singapore Civil Defence Force (“SCDF”) to change the industrial use of the inspected premises to a workers dormitory. SCDF found that the existing fire safety measures for the inspected premises as an industrial premise were inadequate for a dormitory.
  7. The illegal accommodation did not have a proper escape route. The mezzanine level of factory unit where the workers slept was unsafe as the plywood flooring was unstable. The entire premise was dusty due to on-going construction work. In addition to the poor living condition of the premises, the factory severely lacked sanitary and showering facilities. There were only two toilets to be shared between 41 workers, and workers took their showers in the open. Some of these workers have resided in the premises for more than a year. (see photos in Annex)

    Employers Must Provide Accurate and Truthful Information in OFWAS
  8. Commenting on the case, Ms Jeanette Har (张丽莲), Director, Well-Being of MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division (人力部外来人力管理署(福利监察)处长) said, “The premises had no approval from SCDF to be used to house workers. It has inadequate safety measures in place and is clearly not suited to be used for housing of workers. MOM has stepped up housing inspections and will take action against employers who show scant regard for the health, safety and well-being of their workers. We also take false declaration of workers’ addresses in OFWAS seriously as inaccurate and false information undermines the efficacy of OFWAS as a tool for safeguarding the well-being and management of foreign workers.”
  9. Employers are required to register or update their FWs’ residential addresses through the OFWAS within five days of commencement of employment, or when there is a change in the workers’ residential addresses. Any change in the address should be accurately and promptly updated. Employers who wilfully provide false information on OFWAS can be sentenced to a fine of up to $20,000 and/or imprisonment of up to two years for each offence.
  10. Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations, employers are required to provide accommodation that complies with the various statutory requirements for their FWs. Failure to do so is an offence under the EFMA, and offenders can be sentenced to a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months for each offence.

Annex

Workers living on the mezzanine level with unstable plywood flooring, which compromised workers’ safety and well-being.

Workers living on the mezzanine level with unstable plywood flooring, which compromised workers’ safety and well-being.

Workers had to live in premises which were not approved to be used as a foreign worker dormitory.

Workers had to live in premises which were not approved to be used as a foreign worker dormitory.

Workers endured poor living conditions which were dusty and unsafe.

Workers endured poor living conditions which were dusty and unsafe.

FOOTNOTE

  1. The OFWAS is an online system which captures the residential addresses of all Work Permit Holders (excluding domestic workers) so as to improve the overall management of foreign manpower by MOM.