PSM and human rights group say government must be fair to migrant workers living in 'horrendous conditions' but Klang MP says a feasibility study must be carried out first.
PETALING JAYA: Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) has backed the government’s plan to have proper housing for foreign construction workers, adding that it should be extended to workers in other sectors as well.
Central committee member Rani Rasiah hailed the move, saying it would improve workers’ living conditions.
“With proper housing, they can have sufficient water supply, electricity and ventilation,” she said, adding that better living conditions would also keep illnesses at bay.
She was responding to remarks by Works Minister Fadillah Yusof who said yesterday the government was looking at tabling a bill that would make it mandatory for contractors to build houses for foreign construction workers.
Fadillah said proper housing would improve the workers’ productivity and do away with “unsightly ‘rumah kongsi'” at construction sites.
“Those contractors who fail to follow the law will be penalised,” he told reporters.
Human rights group North-South Initiative (NSI) agreed with Rani’s suggestion that foreign workers in other sectors should also enjoy the initiative.
“A comprehensive law for accommodation for all workers in all sectors is needed, with proper enforcement and monitoring mechanisms.
“Migrant workers currently live in horrendous conditions, and we should be fair to them as those developing the nation,” the group’s executive director, Adrian Pereira, told FMT.
Rani said the government should also monitor the contractors tasked with providing the housing.
“Make sure the housing provided are of good quality, not exceeding cost, and with no delays in delivery to the workers,” she said.
However, DAP’s Klang MP Charles Santiago urged caution in the matter.
He said small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) involved in the construction business might have to bear the cost of transporting workers to the sites.
“If there is an increase in costs for business, it will be passed on to workers. This will further discourage foreigners from working here,” he said, citing the example of workers paying high rents.
He added that a feasibility study should be conducted on the government’s idea.
“The government might have to build quite a number of these housing areas across the country so that transporting them (the workers) to work places does not become expensive.”
Fadillah said to sort out this problem, the works ministry, under the non-profit company, Construction Labour Exchange Berhad (CLAB), had built accommodation for 1,000 workers in Subang.
The minister said these accommodations were rented out to small and medium contractors at a minimal cost for them to house their workers. More such projects are being planned.