MTUC blames poor enforcement of workers’ housing standards for spike in virus cases

Health ministry officers screen migrant workers for Covid-19 at the Pudu wet market area in Kuala Lumpur.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) today blamed poor enforcement of laws pertaining to housing standards for workers for the recent increase in Covid-19 cases among foreign workers.

In a statement, MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said various government agencies had failed to ensure proper accommodation for their workers as required by the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990.

“They have not only failed miserably in their enforcement but also let down the local and migrant workers who are housed by employers in overcrowded dormitories shared by workers when they are on or off shift.”

Yesterday, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announced a new Covid-19 cluster involving 44 cases at a construction site in Kuala Lumpur.

He also spoke of a possibility that the virus had spread among foreign workers as they stayed in crowded and confined spaces.

Solomon said it was important to protect workers through labour inspectorates to monitor and enforce compliance with labour laws and standards.

He said this could be done through collaboration between the authorities and labour groups.

“MTUC had many times in the past urged the Labour Department to carry out collaborative inspection, but the response from the Labour Department has been very poor,” he added.

He urged the relevant agencies to conduct an immediate nationwide check on workplaces and dormitories for foreign workers.

He said this would be crucial in addressing issues of hygiene and safety among migrant workers, most of whom live in crowded conditions where social distancing is impossible.

“Besides the current Covid-19 spread among them, we have seen a resurgence of diseases like tuberculosis and dysentery among others which were not heard of for some time in the country.

“Employers must immediately work hand in hand with the human resources ministry and the health ministry to draw up specific guidelines and procedures for workers’ quarters to check the spread of the virus.”

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