The world’s eyes are on Singapore as the country’s cases of coronavirus spike. Worse still, the plight of our migrant workers has also been exposed on the international stage as photographs of the cramped conditions our migrant workers are made to live in are plastered across big-name international media outlets.
Understandably, the Singapore government has rushed to reassure migrant workers that Singapore will take care of them and provide them with the same care as it would its citizens. Prominent Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) leaders such as Chan Chun Sing have also publicly said that the migrant workers were a part of our community.
With all this in mind, it comes as rather a shock that the dormitory operator who was exposed as having treated their migrant workers like prisoners when they have done nothing wrong was only given a “stern warning” and banned from hiring new migrant staff pending a police investigation.
Given that all construction projects have now been suspended in Singapore, not being able to hire new foreign staff is not much of a punishment at all! This means that in real terms, all the dormitory operator got for his gross transgressions was just a “stern warning”.
Surely, these deplorable acts deserve much more than a “stern warning”?
In this case, a group of workers were being locked inside a room at the Joylicious dormitory in Tuas. These workers could only leave if a security guard unlocked the door and this could take 30 minutes. As TWC2 rightly points out, “this is an unacceptable and dangerous way to do things. What if a fire breaks out in the block?”
Looking at this example, it is clear that the dormitory operators do not treat their migrant worker employees as human beings at all. What crimes have the migrant workers committed to justify them being locked up like caged animals in this matter? Being sick is not a criminal act, especially not when they might be sick partially due to the inaction of their employers and/or the Ministry of Manpower.
The Government has on numerous occasions reassured migrant workers that they will be cared for. If this is indeed the case, then this dormitory operator needs to be seriously taken to task. Not just let off with a “stern warning”, whatever that means.
Dormitory operators found by authorities to be treating migrant workers residing in their dormitories in an ill manner should at least be fined. Such sanctions may serve as a deterrent and hit dormitory operators where it hurts them — their pockets.
Edit (12 January): BR Law Corporation, the firm representing Joylicious Management Pte Ltd, said that the dormitory operator denies claims made by Rahman Mohammad Hasibur, a Bangladeshi national and one of the migrant workers who were locked in during the above incident.
“We are further instructed that our clients intend to defend against the Plaintiff’s claims to the hilt,” the law firm told TOC in a letter sent via email today.