THE report ("Errant bosses faking addresses of foreign workers"; Sunday) suggested that the practice of employers falsely declaring their foreign workers' addresses in the Online Foreign Worker Address Service (Ofwas) is widespread.
The report, based on anecdotal feedback from dormitory operators and employers, implied that the well-being of foreign workers is being undermined by this errant practice.
There are indeed instances where employers provide false addresses. Information provided by members of the public will be useful and we will investigate. If found to be true, we will take action and have done so.
However, we do not believe the practice of employers providing false information relating to their workers' accommodation addresses is prevalent.
As stated in the report, the vast majority of the 2,100 employers taken to task for Ofwas-related offences were for failure to update accommodation addresses. This can happen due to administrative lapses when the foreign worker has moved to another accommodation and the employer omits or otherwise fails to notify the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
However, outright false declaration of addresses is a serious offence - errant employers face fines of up to $20,000 and/or up to 24 months' imprisonment for each false declaration. Errant employers may also have their work pass privileges curbed.
A failure of employers to administratively update Ofwas does not necessarily imply that foreign workers are housed in sub-standard conditions.
Purpose-built dormitories are not the only form of approved accommodation. For instance, employers can also house their workers in residential premises, as well as converted industrial premises that meet statutory health and safety requirements for housing purposes.
The MOM regularly inspects foreign worker housing to ensure that standards are acceptable. When these are found wanting, we will take action against employers.
We welcome information from workers, non-governmental organisations and members of the public to assist us in our investigations.
Divisional Director, Foreign Manpower Management Division
Ministry of Manpower