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66 foreign workers squeezed into 8-man Geylang space, construction firm & directors fined S$257,000

The workers were found to be living in appalling conditions

Matthias Ang | April 24, 05:30 pm

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A construction company and two construction directors have been fined a total of S$257,000.

This is punishment for housing 66 foreign workers within two private residences meant for a total of only eight persons.

The case was revealed in a joint press release by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

CNA reported that the two private residences were adjoining shophouses along Lorong 14 Geylang. 

Those fined are 48-year-old Shi Baoyi of Genocean Enterprises Pte Ltd, and 55-year-old Chen Ming of Genocean Construction Pte Ltd.

Their respective companies have since been barred from hiring foreign workers.

Fined for overcrowded conditions

The press release added that both Shi and Chen had been sentenced under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA), for housing foreign workers in overcrowded conditions and converting a private residence into a workers’ dormitory.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the collective fine and the various offences:

  • Shi Baoyi: S$137,000
    • S$70,000 for violating the EFMA in housing foreign workers in crowded conditions,
    • S$52,000 for violating the EFMA by providing inaccurate information in the Online Foreign Worker Address Service system and false information to the Controller of Work Passes,
    • S$15,000 for converting private residential properties (PRPs) into a workers’ dormitory without planning permission.
  • Chen Ming: S$60,000
    • S$48,000 for violating the EFMA in housing foreign workers in crowded conditions,
    • S$12,000 for converting private residential properties (PRPs) into a workers’ dormitory without planning permission.
  • Genocean Enterprises Pte Ltd: S$60,000 for converting private residential properties (PRPs) into a workers’ dormitory without planning permission.

How the case unfolded

Investigations by URA and MOM revealed that Genocean Enterprises had rented the two shophouses in Geylang in January 2015 on a 12-month tenancy agreement.

Subsequently, more and more beds were added into the space until a total of 66 foreign workers were found to be living within the shophouses in extremely filthy and unsanitary conditions, far above the combined occupancy cap of eight people.

Source: MOM and URA
Source: MOM and URA
Source: URA and MOM

Such conditions were highlighted as having affected the well-being of the foreign workers.

More workers found to live in overcrowded conditions

Investigations found that the Lorong 14 Geylang shophouses were not the only private residences in which the accused parties were found to have housed workers in overcrowded conditions.

Separately, investigations showed that Shi, Chen and Genocean Enterprises had converted a third private residence along Lorong Kismis into an unauthorised workers’ dormitory from June to July 2015.

From July to August 2016, Shi had consented for Genocean Enterprises to house another 15 foreign workers in yet another overcrowded private residence located at Geylang Road.

Shi’s submission of false information to the Controller of Work Passes stemmed from his submission for 12 foreign workers between August and September 2016.

He had also failed to update the addresses of another 40 foreign workers between March and April 2015.

MOM reaffirms stern action against irresponsible employers

Jeanette Har, the director of the well-being department at MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division, said the fines and penalties would send a strong signal against irresponsible employers.

Har said: “MOM will continue to take stern action against irresponsible employers who disregard workers’ safety and well-being by housing them in overcrowded and unacceptable living conditions. Together with other agencies, MOM will intensify our inspections on PRPs and send a strong signal that employers must look after the welfare of their workers.”

For failing to provide workers with safe and proper accommodation that meets statutory requirements, an employer can face a fine of up to S$10,000 or a jail term of up to 12 months, or both, for each charge.

Under the Planning Act, private residential properties are subject to an occupancy cap of six unrelated persons.

For violating this act, offenders can be fined up to S$200,000, or jailed up to one year, or both.

Top photo from URA and MOM

About Matthias Ang

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