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MOM issues stern warning to Joylicious dorm operator for locking up workers, puts hiring freeze on employer

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

The Ministry of Manpower said it told the dormitory operator that it was unacceptable to forcibly confine the workers to their room.

The Ministry of Manpower said it told the dormitory operator that it was unacceptable to forcibly confine the workers to their room.

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

The ministry said in a statement on Friday (April 24) that V Spec Engineering & Supplies, the men’s employer that consented to the locking of the door, will also not be allowed to hire new foreign workers, pending police investigations.

“The dormitory operator was advised that it is unacceptable to forcibly confine the workers to their room,” said MOM.

On Tuesday, migrant workers' rights group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) posted on Facebook that it had received a “distress call” from the men, who said that they had been locked up since April 17.

The manager of the dormitory, who wanted to be known only as Mr Thng, told TODAY that the men had been locked in the room for “less than 24 hours”. He said the dormitory operator had “no choice” but to do so for the safety of some 800 workers living there, after one of the men in that room tested positive for Covid-19.

The infected worker, who is a Chinese national, was taken to the hospital at about 8pm on April 18 after developing a fever.

Explaining why the men were locked up, Mr Thng said that the dormitory’s management needed time to prepare a new space on another floor for the workers to stay in, this time with a toilet attached, unlike the previous room.

MOM said in its statement that it had picked up a Facebook post by TWC2 on the incident.

“Prior to that, we did not receive notification of the incident from TWC2,” it said.

The ministry said that it immediately deployed inspectors to the site and, on arrival, MOM officers found that the 20 workers were no longer confined to their room. They had been relocated to a warehouse with an attached toilet.

MOM’s investigations revealed that on April 20, the dormitory operator had, indeed, confined the workers in their room.

In its statement, MOM said there is an established channel for TWC2 to alert the ministry to cases of workers who might require help of any form.

“In this instance, TWC2 published the post on Facebook without notifying MOM,” it said.

MOM urged members of the public who come across such incidents to alert the ministry, so that it can respond quickly and take care of the well-being of workers.

TWC2 SAYS IT TOLD MIGRANT WORKERS’ CENTRE ABOUT CASE

In response to TODAY’s queries, TWC2 vice-president Alex Au said that the group had told the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC), which comes under the National Trades Union Congress, about the situation at the dormitory. 

He said that since circuit breaker restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19 began on April 7, TWC2 had sent several messages to an MOM channel on the problems faced by other workers. The group had not always received prompt or substantive responses, and found working with MWC “a lot more effective”, said Mr Au. 

Furthermore, TWC2 understood that MWC had a better channel to MOM than the one that it used. 

Detailing the steps that the group took on the incident at the Joylicious dormitory, Mr Au said that TWC2 got in touch with MWC almost as soon as it learnt of the workers' plight on the morning of April 20. Soon after, it received a response saying that the centre would get case teams to contact the dormitory operator immediately.

Mr Au said that later that afternoon, MWC replied to say that it had informed an “enforcement team”, which TWC2 understood to be part of MOM, about the situation at the dormitory. 

When the foreign workers told TWC2 around noon the next day that they were still locked in, Mr Au said that the group contacted MWC again and was told that the centre had escalated the case to an MOM director.

“MWC's quick and straightforward replies gave us every assurance that the matter had reached the right people in MOM,” said Mr Au.

TWC2 took it that MOM was “thus made aware of the matter from quite early on”.

“We are puzzled why MOM is now suggesting that they were not aware.” 

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Covid-19 coronavirus foreign worker dormitory Joylicious dormitory

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