Shophouse of ‘Horrors’

Shophouse of ‘Horrors’

 

THE Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has ordered an investigation after receiving complaints about a shophouse along Tanjong Katong Road in which 38 foreign workers were allegedly crammed in living conditions deemed ‘unacceptable’.

 

The ministry told The Straits Times that its officers inspected the unit following a March 20 report filed by the workers alleging breaches of employment laws.

 

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, employers must ensure that workers are accommodated in satisfactory conditions. The penalty for each breach of the conditions of the work- permit regulations is a fine of up to $5,000 or six months’ jail or both.

 

When The Straits Times visited the third-floor quarters recently, the workers were using gas burners to cook their meals in their bedrooms because, they said, the kitchen’s four electric stoves caused regular power trips.

 

The three bedrooms in the 1,800 sq ft shophouse each took in eight to 10 workers on double-decker beds; more workers slept on similar beds in the narrow living room.

 

The workers, who are from Chennai, India, were also standing in line every day to use the shophouse’s sole bathroom and toilet, and tracking water and urine back into the living room, leaving the place reeking as a result.

 

The power points were overloaded with plugs for electrical appliances, and the power meter was dangling from a wall on the ground floor.

 

MOM said it had also referred the case to agencies such as the National Environment Agency and the Singapore Civil Defence Force because other laws on public health and fire safety may have been breached.

 

The workers alleged that their employer, Rite Choice Technologies director V. Raju, had threatened to send them back to India if they dared to complain, among other things.

 

The workers finally spoke up after 18 of them were left stranded on Jurong Island – where they worked on oil refineries – at the end of the work day on March 19.

 

They claimed that the lorry driver drove off without them, but Mr Raju told The Straits Times that they had refused to board the vehicle.

 

He added that 11 of the workers had staged a strike two days earlier to demand more overtime work and shifts on alternate Sundays.

 

He said MOM had not contacted him.

 

Mr Krishnamoorthy Sivasubramanian, one of the workers, said: ‘Raju told us he knows someone in MOM and will blacklist us if we complain about anything. We’re scared we won’t be able to enter Singapore again if he does that.’

 

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Source: Straits Times

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