MOM gives range of options to house workers during Malaysia lockdown

The Leo dormitory in Kaki Bukit where the infected Bangladeshi worker was staying. (PHOTO: Google Street View screengrab)
Leo dormitory in Kaki Bukit. (PHOTO: Google Street View screengrab)

SINGAPORE — While there are a range of options available for companies who want to house their Malaysian workers in Singapore, the most amenable option may be to encourage the affected workers to stay with their relatives, friends or colleagues in the country.

In a media release on Tuesday (17 March), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that many companies in Singapore are making efforts to house workers who commute frequently across the Singapore-Malaysia border.

This comes after Malaysian prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced a two-week Movement Control Order, a lockdown of the country to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, following a sharp spike in the number of cases in the past few days.

MOM said that the option most amenable to some workers will be to stay with their relatives, friends or colleagues, who may be willing to accommodate them for a short period.

Range of short-term housing options

For workers who cannot make such arrangements, there are a range of short-term housing options available:

  • hotels or dormitories,

  • accommodation, such as rooms and whole property in both the HDB flats and private residential property market.

MOM advises employers to assess their manpower needs carefully, before deciding whether they need their affected workers to remain in Singapore.

In providing assistance to housing workers, the ministry will prioritise the needs of firms that provide essential services such as healthcare, security, cleaning, waste management, facilities management, logistics and transport.

The government is also looking into providing financial support for companies that need to urgently accommodate their affected workers, and will release more details shortly.

It will also be working with the hotel/dormitory providers on providing lower cost rentals to minimise any impact on the delivery of services.

Minimum room rental term is 3 consecutive months

According to real estate agency ERA Realty Network’s key executive officer Eugene Lim, room rentals are at about $800 to $1,200 per month, while whole units rent about $2,000 to $4,000 monthly.

For private residential properties, however, the minimum rental term is three consecutive months, and the maximum number of un-related occupants cannot exceed six persons for a residential dwelling unit.

With most landlords reluctant to break the housing laws here, Lim said that ERA is working with employers and workers who are adopting a longer term view, expecting this lockdown to last longer and preparing to rent for a minimum of at least three consecutive months.

SBS Transit, SMRT secure accommodation for staff

Meanwhile, bus and rail operator SBS Transit said on its Facebook page that it has secured temporary accommodation at several hotels for its Malaysian bus captains. The move takes immediate effect, in order to ensure that scheduled bus services are not affected.

SBS Transit also refuted an online report and insisted that its bus captains will not be made to sleep on recliner chairs in its depots.

Likewise, SMRT also put up a Facebook post saying that it has secured sufficient hotel rooms for its Malaysian staff to stay in Singapore until the lockdown is scheduled to end on 31 March.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that it has worked closely with the public transport operators and the National Transport Workers’ Union to secure the short-term accommodation for our Malaysian public transport workers.

“Their efforts to keep Singapore’s public transport services running are deeply appreciated,” said an LTA spokesperson. “We expect the impact on our train and bus operations to be limited for now, though there may be degradation of some bus services.”

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