Enforce law on workers housing, amenities, without delay

The government has been urged not to delay enforcing new laws on housing and amenities for workers, nor should it brook any excuses on the matter from employers. - NSTP file picThe government has been urged not to delay enforcing new laws on housing and amenities for workers, nor should it brook any excuses on the matter from employers. – NSTP file pic

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has been urged not to delay enforcing new laws on housing and amenities for workers, nor should it brook any excuses on the matter from employers.

The government’s three-month grace period for employers to comply with amendments to the Workers Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990, ends today.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general J. Solomon said the relevant authorities, especially the Human Resources Ministry, should swiftly enforce the new laws that address the living conditions of migrant workers from tomorrow, Sept 1.

The employers have been given adequate time to comply, he said.

Employers were given three months to improve the living conditions of their workers as the laws were passed by the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara in July last year.

The laws cover housing and amenities for workers in all sectors across Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan.

“Regretfully, since the laws were passed last year, MTUC has not seen any significant move by employers to address the poor living conditions of workers, especially migrants who continue to live in cramped and squalid conditions either at their work sites or rented apartments and terrace houses.

“We will take this to mean that many employers continue to take lightly the issue of accommodation for workers, despite their continued risk of becoming clusters for the spread of Covid-19. In fact, there were kongsi or workers quarters in construction sites in Kuala Lumpur that became clusters for Covid-10 which infected scores of workers,” he said in a statement today.

Solomon said Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah himself cited that migrant workers cramped and crowded living conditions were a major reason for transmission of Covid-19.

The nation’s top health official also said that such living conditions were marked by poor hygiene which deters social distancing practices required to contain the spread of Covid-19.

“Despite his warnings, we find employers forcing as many as 15 to 20 workers to share three room apartments of terrace houses of less than 1,000 square feet with one or two washrooms. The situation in many kongsi are even worse,” he said.

Solomon said the pathetic living conditions of migrant workers in Malaysia even before the Covid-19 outbreak was a clear violation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions.

In fact, he said, a poor standard of accommodation was one of the 11 indicators of forced labour defined by the ILO.

He said employers in Malaysia and the government should not take lightly the issue of living conditions for foreign workers as many countries use the ILO indicators as a bench mark in their international trade dealings, which may have dire consequences for errant Malaysian entrepreneurs who fail to provide decent housing for their workers.

“Already, over the past year, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has taken action against at least two Malaysian companies – Top Glove and WRP Asia – by blocking the import of their products into the countries under laws meant to stop forced labour”.

Solomon said amid claims by the companies that their problem with the US authorities had been or was being resolved, the reality was that the treatment of migrant workers, including their living conditions, will remain to be a central issue as many countries clamp down on forced labour, using the ILO indicators.

It clearly reflects the inadequate inspection of labour at workplaces by the Labour Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Department, as is expected under ILO Convention 81, he said.

“As such, Malaysia’s move to amend laws governing the accommodation and living conditions for workers is commendable. But the laws are only effective if they are enforced strictly on employers and we hope to see this happen from tomorrow,” he said.

Solomon also urged the government not to succumb to any excuses from employers who do not comply as they have been given enough time to do so.

“MTUC strongly calls on the Human Resources Ministry not to allow employers cite financial drawbacks due to Covid-19 as reason to delay the enforcement of the Workers Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act Amendment Bill 2019,” he said.

Solomon said the government must also ensure that the laws were implemented across all sectors of the economy in line with the International Labour Organisation’s Recommendation 115 (Workers Housing Recommendation, 1961).

“It is our hope on this Merdeka Day that the painful experience of workers living in deplorable conditions in kongsi at construction sites or small dinghy apartments or terrace houses in large numbers will be a thing of the past with the effective enforcement of the amended laws,” he said.

By B. Suresh Ram.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/08/620833/enforce-law-workers-housing-amenities-without-delay

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