COVID-19: Stern warning for dorm which locked foreign workers in a room – reports

Joylicious dormitory at Tuas Avenue 10. (PHOTO: Screenshot/Google Maps)
Joylicious dormitory at Tuas Avenue 10. (PHOTO: Screenshot/Google Maps)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has issued a stern warning to dormitory operator Joylicious, after it locked 20 foreign workers in their room when one of them tested positive for COVID-19.

“The dormitory operator was advised that it is unacceptable to forcibly confine the workers to their room,” the ministry said in a media statement on Friday (24 April).

According to Today Online, MOM added that the workers’ employer, V Spec Engineering and Supplies, will be banned from hiring new foreign workers pending police investigations, after it consented to the locking of the room.

Alerted by migrant workers group Facebook post

In the statement, MOM said it had picked up a Facebook post put up on Tuesday by migrant workers group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), which said that it received a distress call from about workers being locked inside a room at the Joylicious dormitory in Tuas Avenue 10 since Monday morning.

The workers were later moved to a bigger room, but were still locked in. According to another Facebook post, TWC2 said that police came in on Tuesday evening to open the door.

MOM said in its statement that it had deployed inspectors to the dormitory after it picked up TWC2’s initial post. It found the 20 workers in a warehouse with an attached toilet. Investigations confirmed that the dorm operator had confined the workers on Monday with the agreement of their employer.

According to Today Online, the dormitory manager said the men had been locked in the room for “less than 24 hours”, and that he had no choice but to do so for the safety of some 800 workers living there. The coronavirus-infected worker, a Chinese national, was taken to hospital on Saturday (18 April) after developing a fever.

Notifying the ministry

MOM said in the statement that TWC2 published the post on Facebook without notifying the ministry, and noted that there is an established channel for TWC2 to alert the ministry to cases of workers who might require help of any form.

According to Today Online, TWC2 vice-president Alex Au said that the group had told the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) about the situation at the dormitory.

MWC comes under the purview of National Trades Union Congress. The Straits Times reported MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang confirming that it was notified of the situation on Monday, and alerted the enforcement unit of MOM about the case.

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