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Dormitory operator, director charged with housing workers in poor living conditions

DORMITORY operator Labourtel Management Corporation and its director, 42-year-old Singaporean Parvis Ahamed, are facing 10 and six charges respectively for failing to provide satisfactory living conditions for thousands of foreign workers at four dormitories in Singapore.

They are the first company and individual to be prosecuted under the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act 2015 (FEDA), which regulates how large dormitories with 1,000 beds or more should be managed.

The offences were committed between November 2017 and January 2019.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Thursday that it conducted an inspection which uncovered poor living conditions at four purpose-built dormitories managed by Labourtel.

The dormitories were found to be poorly maintained, with missing or damaged light fixtures, faulty shower taps and corroded railings and staircases. The living conditions were also “filthy and unacceptable”, MOM said.

Cockroaches and cobwebs were found in the rooms, for example.

"MOM has conducted multiple reinspections to ensure that the operator took immediate steps to rectify the lapses, even as investigations were ongoing," a ministry spokesman told The Business Times on Thursday.

"MOM's priority is to safeguard the interests and well-being of the dormitory residents," he added.

The charges against both Labourtel and Parvis relate to requirements on the tidiness, cleanliness and good housekeeping of the premises, and on keeping the interior and exterior of all buildings in good repair and condition.

Among other things, they did not replace faulty toilet bowls and missing covers of rubbish chutes, and did not repair a damaged partitioned wall.

The exterior wall of a block was also covered in algae, while railings were corroded and the cooking areas were dirty and greasy. Some of the shower points also did not have shower curtains to ensure privacy for the workers, and there were missing shower heads and taps.

In addition, Labourtel was also charged with not ensuring that all shower points are partitioned to ensure privacy for the users, and for not providing mechanical ventilation - such as fans - when natural ventilation is inadequate.

The four dormitories are Jurong Penjuru Dormitory 1 and 2, Blue Stars Dormitory and The Leo.

Labourtel is one of the companies within the MES group. MES’s website states that it operates four key dormitory locations in Singapore, housing about 24,000 guest workers in the petrochemical, manufacturing, marine, construction and other process industries.

The Leo comprises five high-rise blocks totalling 365 residential units, while Jurong Penjuru has two 15-storey towers totalling 945 units and the Blue Stars Dormitory is made up of seven blocks with 395 units, according to MES’s website.

The court cases against Labourtel and the director have been adjourned to Aug 1 for a further mention.

If convicted, the offender can be fined up to S$50,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 12 months, for each contravention of the licensing conditions.

The FEDA requires all large dormitories to apply for a licence to operate. Under the FEDA, licensed dormitories need to meet security and public health requirements, and provide and maintain social, recreational and commercial amenities for its residents.