An employer of migrant workers residing at Westlite Toh Guan dormitory, which is still gazetted as an isolation area, revealed that his workers are living inside rooms infested with bedbugs.
The employer revealed to TOC that a complaint has been made to the relevant authorities a week ago, but action was only taken Thursday (13 August).
The workers have just moved into the rooms on 3 August after being shifted from Block 18 of the dormitory where they had been staying for the past three and half months to Block 28 of the dormitory.
According to the pictures sent by the employer to TOC, we can see that the walls in the room are covered with bedbug stains. The boss of the company added that the pictures were taken on 3 August. This means that the affected migrant workers have been living in the rooms for over a week, being bitten by the bedbugs, the employer noted.
If that’s not all, the employer also revealed that he immediately alerted Raining Raincoats, an organisation for the benefit of migrant workers, of the situation after he was informed of it. Following that, the organisation also raised the matter to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) but no action was taken, that is until last Thursday.
Moreover, the employer also pointed out that only two rooms in which his employees are staying were treated with thinner Thursday. The other rooms in the dormitory were left untouched.
“We reported last week but only yesterday they (the dormitory) did the thinner,” the employer said.
To make it worse, when the application of thinner was being carried out in the affected rooms, the workers were not allowed to leave and had to put up with the smell while the treatment was happening, the employer said.
An affected worker staying in Block 28 of the dorm told TOC that the dormitory operator sprayed thinner and painted the room without asking the workers to leave the room.
Now, this raises question of the migrant workers’ safety as sniffing thinner can cause damage to the brain, kidney, lung and reproductive system.
The dorm operator also did not allow the workers to take any photo or video while the application of the thinner solution was being done. However, photos were still taken nevertheless.
Given that Westlite Toh Guan dormitory is still an isolation area, workers are still confined within their own rooms.
According to the dorm’s website, it stated that “tamper-proof stickers (are) pasted on residents’ doors to check that residents do not leave their room”.
While this move can be deemed necessary to reduce social mingling at the dorm to contain the spread of COVID-19, it seems rather puzzling that these workers were not allowed to leave the room while the hazardous process of applying thinner was being done.
Workers health deteriorated over time
The employer also claimed that his workers were very healthy during the lockdown but their health began to deteriorate after workers from other companies were made to mix with them and scattered around the dorm.
“Our workers keep the room very clean. Their health has gotten bad to worse. The problem only started when they brought other workers (from other companies), scattered workers all over the place,” he said.
In fact, the employer also asserted that one of his workers was even made to live with two other workers who were tested positive for the deadly coronavirus. He said that his employee slept on the top of the bunk bed, while the two infected workers slept below him.
Based on the pictures below, we can see that there is very little social distancing among the workers. This is obviously risky given that two COVID-19 positive patients also lived in the same room.
Adding to that, the employer also shared how the rooms are stuffy as the windows can only be open one-sided. This means that if the room door is shut, then it makes it difficult for air to circulate well in the room.
“Imagine putting 7-8 persons in a room, the size of a 3-room flat living room,” he commented.
Additionally, the employer also disclosed that the beds are arranged very closely to each other at Acacia Lodge 534 Bukit Batok. It appears that one of the employer’s S Pass holder resides at this dorm.
As such, the employer said that this particular S Pass holder is not allowed to come to the office to work even if he is cleared to resume work. This is because there had been two cases of COVID-19 cases in his room itself, the employer said.
If that’s not all, the employer also noted that the affected worker told him that the room was not even sanitised by the dorm operator. He added that all the workers are still staying in the room and they have to clean and sanitise the room all by themselves.
TOC has reached out to Westlite Toh Guan dormitory for their comment on this matter and has yet to receive a reply.
Update 20 Aug: Westlite clarified that there had been an application of thinner within 24 hours of receiving a message from the Migrant Worker Centre on 7 August and a second application on the 13 August.