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Dorms organise weekend events for foreign workers

Dormitory operators are planning a slew of activities from movie screenings to flea markets and even short trips across the Causeway to keep foreign workers occupied on upcoming weekends and public holidays.
The Straits Times - December 20, 2013
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Dorms organise weekend events for foreign workers

Dormitory operators are planning a slew of activities from movie screenings to flea markets and even short trips across the Causeway to keep foreign workers occupied on upcoming weekends and public holidays.

With limits on weekend alcohol sales in Little India, and the 50 per cent cut in the private bus services that usually ferry some 22,000 workers there every Sunday, dorm operators believe fewer workers will head to Serangoon Road on their days off.

The measures, announced by the Government on Wednesday, will last for up to six months, until a Committee of Inquiry looking into the Dec 8 riot at Little India makes its recommendations.

Dorm operators The Straits Times spoke to said they are drawing up a calendar of social events for workers, which will include day trips to Malaysia during the Chinese New Year holidays and monthly Sunday outings to attractions such as Gardens by the Bay.

However, their most pressing goal is to ensure that the workers can relax and run errands at their dorms instead of having to go to Serangoon Road.

Westlite chief operating officer Kelvin Teo, who runs three dorms housing 18,000 men in all, said his staff are planning a karaoke event for workers this weekend.

Westlite will also allow them to use the astroturf courts at two of its dorms for cricket. Nets will be placed around the courts by early next year so that cricket balls do not fly out of the compound.

"When they play cricket, other workers will come and watch too. I think we will be able to attract a large crowd," said Mr Teo.

Singapore Contractors Association Limited will screen Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters this weekend at its six dorms, which house some 20,000 workers. It will also hold badminton, football and other matches.

Mini Environment Service (MES), which runs three dorms for 25,000 workers, already runs a weekend flea market where items such as cellphone accessories and men's clothing are sold. But it plans to bring in more vendors with a wider range of goods such as toys and clothes for women, which workers can send as gifts to their families back home.

"We want to make things more convenient for the workers. They are tired after work and need to rest," explained business development manager Yusof Lateef.

MES also runs beer gardens at its dorms so that workers need not go outside to drink.

Indian national V. Deva, a shipyard employee who lives in a dorm at Tuas, said workers would gain from having more amenities where they stay. "I'm tired after work but I still have to go to Little India or Boon Lay to send money home," said the 37-year-old, who has worked here for four years. "It is better if I can do this from the dorm."

Shipping foreman Weslin Raj, who came here from India 10 years ago, said dorms can persuade workers to stay in by providing free WiFi in the rooms. "We can surf the Internet and chat with our family members back home," said the 35-year-old, who also lives in a Tuas dorm.

Yesterday, officers from the Rochor Neighbourhood Police Centre started distributing leaflets to inform shopkeepers of the alcohol restrictions, which apply on weekends, public holidays and their eve. The rules include limiting liquor sales by retailers to between 6am and 8pm. There is a complete ban on drinking in public.

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