KT Mesdorm Pte Ltd, the operator of a purpose-built dormitory in the Boon Lay area was recently fined $300,000 for having more than the permitted number of workers living there. Mesdorm pleaded guilty to 30 charges. It is the first dorm operator to be so prosecuted, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a press statement dated 1 June 2016.

The Blue Star Dormitory was certified by regulatory authorities to house 4,500 workers, but about 10 months ago on 30 July 2015, the Civil Defence Force found 5,098 beds and 5,042 workers living there.

The New Paper published photos (supplied by MOM) that showed rubbish strewn about and stained walls. There were also reports of cockroaches and other vermin.

The newspaper quoted TWC2’s Alex Au pointing out that poor living conditions can have life and death consequences. Workers who do not get sufficient rest are less alert and easily fatigued. Accidents become more likely.

He also pointed out that “Workers rarely risk their jobs to be whistleblowers. If employers terminate their contracts, they have to pay the agent fees again if they want to look for another job.”

He urged dorm operators who have good standards, and want to distinguish themselves from the competition to open themselves to inspection by NGOs.