Dorm operator that locked workers in room issued stern warning, police investigating: MOM

MOM also urged members of the public to alert MOM of such incidents, 'so that we can quickly respond to take care of the wellbeing of the workers.'

Nigel Chua| April 24, 06:39 PM

[UPDATE at 9:09pm: An earlier version of this article stated that MOM had not received notification of the incident from any party, and that the dormitory operator was banned from hiring new workers.

MOM has clarified these two points from its earlier statement, saying that it had not received notification of the incident from TWC2, and that the operator was given a stern warning by MOM, while the employer who consented to the locking of the door will be barred from hiring foreign workers. The amended statement from MOM is appended below.]

A group of workers were confined inside their dormitory room, which was locked from the outside, after one of their roommates tested positive for Covid-19.

This was first publicised in a Facebook post on Apr. 21 by local NGO, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2).

Dormitory operator "advised", given stern warning

"The dormitory operator was advised that it is unacceptable to forcibly confine the workers to their room", an MOM spokesperson said, in response to queries from Mothership.

MOM said that it has issued a stern warning to the operator, and that police investigations on the matter are pending.

In the meantime, the employer who consented to the locking of the door will be unable to hire new foreign workers.

What happened on Apr. 21

MOM said that it had picked up on TWC2's Facebook post at about 1:30pm on Apr. 21, and that it deployed inspectors to the site immediately.

The post was published at 1:07pm.

MOM said that it had not received notification of the incident from TWC2 prior to that.

MOM's investigations confirmed that the dormitory operator had confined the workers in their room on Apr. 20, to prevent them from moving around after a close contact of the workers was confirmed positive for Covid-19.

However, the workers had already been relocated by the time MOM officers arrived at the scene, and were no longer confined in their room.

According to MOM, the workers were relocated to a warehouse with attached toilet.

Channels for reporting of such incidents

MOM's statement also said that "there is an established channel for TWC2 to alert MOM to cases of workers who might require assistance of any form".

While TWC2's initial post stated that it had "contacted the authorities and their related organisation" in the afternoon of Apr. 20, MOM said that TWC2 published the post on Facebook without notifying MOM.

MOM also urged members of the public to alert MOM of such incidents, "so that we can quickly respond to take care of the wellbeing of the workers."

Here is the full statement from MOM:

"On 21 April 2020, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) picked up a Facebook post by TWC2 at about 1.30pm that 20 foreign workers were locked in their room at 'Joylicious' dormitory. Prior to that, we did not receive notification of the incident from TWC2.

MOM immediately deployed our inspectors to the site. On arrival, MOM officers found that the 20 workers were no longer confined in their room but had been relocated to a warehouse with attached toilet.

Investigations revealed that on 20 Apr 2020, the dormitory operator had indeed confined the workers in their room with consent from the employer of the foreign workers. The reason given by the operator was to prevent them from moving around after a close contact was confirmed positive for COVID-19. The following day, the workers were shifted to the warehouse with toilet access. The dormitory operator was advised that it is unacceptable to forcibly confine the workers to their room. The operator was given a stern warning by MOM and the employer of the confined workers will be unable to hire new foreign workers, pending Police investigations.

There is an established channel for TWC2 to alert MOM to cases of workers who might require assistance of any form. In this instance, TWC2 published the post on FB without notifying MOM.

Members of public are urged to alert MOM when they come across such incidents so that we can quickly respond to take care of the wellbeing of the workers."

Top photo via TWC2 on Facebook