In a Facebook post published on Tuesday (21 April), migrant labour’s rights non-profit organisation Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) highlighted a story about a group of migrant workers staying in Joylicious dormitory were locked inside their own room after a fellow colleague was tested positive for COVID-19.
TWC2 reported that a Chinese worker was “taken away on 17 April with COVID-19” and ever since then, the remaining 21 workers have been forced to stay inside their room as the door is locked from the outside.
It also added that if any one of the migrant workers want to use the toilet or need to shower, they will have to ask the security guard to open the door for them. Unfortunately, the guards could some time take up to 30 minutes to respond.
The organisation said that the dorm is believed to be located at Tuas Avenue 10 and is managed by Joylicious Management Pte Ltd, which is not part of the licensed dormitory operators listed by the Ministry of Manpower.
However, a manager of the dorm said that he had “no choice” but to take such a drastic measure for the safety of some 800 workers living in the premise, TODAY reported.
“We have no choice but to play it safe. I have 800 workers to take care of here, and they have 800 plus families to answer to. (We can’t allow) one black sheep to cause this whole thing (to spin out of control),” said the manager, who only wants to be known as Mr Thng.
He explained that the reason these workers were locked inside the room was because the dormitory’s management needed time to ready a new place on another floor to accommodate these migrant workers. The new space must come with an attached toilet, unlike the previous one, Mr Thng added.
He also said that there were only 20 men locked inside the room, not 21 workers as claimed by TWC2. Additionally, he said these men were kept inside the room “less than 24 hours”.
Just a few hours after TWC2’s first post, the organisation released a follow-up post stating that the workers were moved to another bigger room equipped with attached bathroom, one floor below. However, the door is still locked and their boss is now looking for the person who leaked the information to the public.
At around 9pm, TWC2 uploaded another post noting that the police came and the door is finally opened for the workers.
“The police came and the door was opened. Now, the door is left open and they get fresh air. Hope it stays that way,” the organisation wrote.
MWC did not respond to TWC2’s concerns
Prior to going public about this incident on Facebook, TWC2 stated that it had raised this issue to the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) on Monday evening, but no action was taken as of 12.30pm on Tuesday, TODAY reported.
TWC2 uploaded its first post at 1.07pm on Tuesday.
MWC is a Government-Organised Non-Governmental Organisation (GONGO) that is often praised by the Government in the media, and is chaired by former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament Yeo Guat Kwang.
In fact, in 2011, Mr Yeo refuted claims made by Temasek Review Emeritus on its website about how he has 64 other jobs, and the news site has taken things “out of context”.
In response to the migrant workers’ issue, Mr Yeo noted that their “normal practice” was to inform the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) enforcement unit on the matter so the officers can go ahead to a perform a prompt inspection, given that the organisation was not able to access private property, TODAY said.
He added that MOM conducted an enforcement visit to the dormitory on Tuesday afternoon.
“The safety of our migrant workers are our utmost concern and such dangerous acts, what more during this crucial circuit breaker period, will not be condoned,” said Mr Yeo.
“We would like to urge our migrant brothers and sisters, who might be caught in a similar situation or need any assistance, to reach out to the MWC on our 24-hour helpline at 6536 2692.”
Migrant workers’ employer asked TWC2 to take down Facebook posts
It was reported by TODAY that the employer of these migrant workers, V Spec Engineering & Supplies, had requested TWC2 to remove all the posts until further investigations were conducted and apologised to all relevant parties.
Reena Wong, design director of V Spec, explained in the email sent on Tuesday about the problem caused by two allegedly problematic Bangladeshi workers, adding that the company might be forced to take legal action against them. The email was viewed by TODAY.
She said earlier that these two workers were causing problem by requesting to use the bathroom every half hour.
“We believe two of our employees on work permit… have been spreading false media claims and making a riot internally,” she said in the email. “For example, they had informed others that a fight had taken place inside the dormitory. I had checked with our other employees in the same dormitory and found that it is not true.”
In response to the dormitory’s actions of locking up the workers in a room, V Spec Engineering said that logically these men should not move freely at the dormitory given that they were in close contact with the worker who was infected with COVID-19.
“Don’t tell me your colleague got virus, you still go and walk around? Cannot be what! For the sake of every man at the dorm, we as an employer told them not to go around. For goodness’ sake, it is only temporary,” Ms Wong said.