Singapore—In Parliament earlier this week, Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament Png Eng Huat asked Manpower Minister Josephine Teo if the owners and operators of foreign workers’ dormitories should be responsible for costs incurred in these facilities during the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far been paid for using taxpayers’ money.
Referencing the Manpower Minister's Facebook post, PNG ENG HUAT said that under the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act,…
Mr Png referred to a Facebook post from Ms Teo, who had written that in the past that when the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has tried to raise living standards in the dormitories, objections would arise from employers because of the additional costs involved.
He pointed out that under the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act (FEDA), licensed operators and dormitory owners should be the ones held responsible to raise standards of living in the interest of public health and safety.
The WP MP then asked why MOM had involved employers when applying the Act, when costs “should be a separate matter for the parties to resolve later,” given that the Ministry had already said it would raise living standards in the interest of public health.
His second question involved the quarantine plan that dorm operators are required to have under the Act in cases of an infectious disease outbreak. He said that from the outset of the outbreak, taxpayers have been footing the bills in the affected dormitories, and asked if dorm owners are liable to pay a share of these quarantine and containment costs.
The Manpower Minister answered by saying that the scale of the coronavirus impact has been “unprecedented” and if cost-counting starts it would be “impossible to get things done.” She underlined that at the moment the priority “must be to keep the situation under control, bring it under control, and then at the appropriate time we can look at what is the right considerations in terms of handling the issue of costs.”
Netizens voiced their agreement with Mr Png, who seemed to find this question a reasonable one.
Others voiced a call for better regulations.
Yet others voiced criticism on how MOM has handled the situation.
Another netizen pointed out that FEDA had made it mandatory to have a Commissioner to oversee the dormitories, a position that has not been filled for some years