MTUC calls on fed govt to ensure employers comply with Workers Housing Act

The MTUC team found the foreign workers living in cramped conditions with poor hygiene during a check on them at their hostel.

By Adrian Lim

KUCHING, May 28: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) is calling on the federal government to ensure that employers comply with the amendments to the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (WMSHA) which will be enforced from Monday (June 1).

MTUC secretary general J Solomon in a statement today said the amendments to the Act are meant to put an end to foreign workers living in cramped, grimy and squatter-like conditions either at ‘kongsi’ on construction project sites, three room-terrace houses or apartments and shop lots.

He observed that often as many as 20 people are bundled into a single home in unsanitary conditions and lacking in basic amenities.

“This is exploitation of the highest order as migrant workers build some of the world’s finest apartment buildings in Malaysia, yet they themselves live in the most horrible conditions, often right next to the construction sites.

“MTUC strongly rejects the (federal) government’s move to give employers three more months to comply with new laws which are to address the long standing squalid living conditions of migrant workers, many whom have been struck by Covid-19.

“We simply cannot fathom why Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan would grant employers the grace period, especially when many Covid-19 cases currently reported involves migrant workers, not just those at immigration detention centres, but also the ones living at construction sites.

“It is totally irresponsible for the minister to expect Malaysians to continue living with the risk of foreign workers dormitories becoming new clusters of Covid-19 simply because he thinks that employers need more time to comply with laws that were passed ten months ago,” he said.

Solomon asserted the amended (WMSHA) Act 1990 which will come into force on June 1 was initially endorsed by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) and MTUC.

Subsequently, he noted that it was approved by both houses of Parliament in July last year.

As such, he believed employers had ample time to comply with it, well before the Covid-19 pandemic struck the country.

Nonetheless, Solomon pointed out that Saravanan’s statement yesterday was made on the same day Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah who said short and long term solutions must be found to prevent foreign worker’s dwellings from becoming clusters of Covid-19 outbreaks and other virus-related diseases.

He believed the solutions sought by Ministry of Health (MoH) was rooted in the amendments to (WMSHA) Act 1990 passed nearly one year ago.

But, with only less than a week to go before the amendments become law, MTUC found it regrettable that the federal government had given employers a further three months’ time to comply with the law, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, much to our dismay, Saravanan not only failed to announce the promised standard operating procedure (SOP), but he also put on hold the enforcement of laws to directly improve the living conditions of foreign workers in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is clearly not right,” he added.

While the federal govt has been quick enough to implement the Movement Control Order (MCO) to contain the deadly Covid-19 virus and is willing to put the economy on hold to save lives, MTUC questioned why the Human Resources Minister was not penalising employers for not providing their workers with decent living condition which risked public safety due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Additionally, MTUC believed that employers were also committing human right abuses which also contravened international labour conventions and recommendations for neglecting the welfare and the living conditions of the foreign workers.—DayakDaily