Enforce new workers’ accommodation law, says MTUC

MTUC says they have not seen any significant move by employers to address the poor living conditions of workers, especially migrants.

PETALING JAYA: The country’s largest workers group has called on the authorities to “swiftly enforce” an amended law on workers’ accommodation.

In a statement, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said 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.

“The government must not succumb to any excuses from employers who do not comply as they have been given enough time to do so,” said MTUC secretary-general J Solomon, adding financial drawbacks were not an acceptable reason.

The amended law, he said, had been passed by the Dewan Rakyat and the Dewan Negara last July.

Solomon said MTUC had not seen any significant move by employers to address the poor living conditions of workers, especially migrants who continued to live in cramped and squalid conditions.

“We 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-19 which infected scores of workers.”

He said health ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has cited such living conditions as a reason for the spread of the coronavirus.

“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 foot with one or two washrooms.”

Migrant workers, he said, had been living in squalid conditions even before Covid-19 and this was a violation of International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions.

“In fact, a poor standard of accommodation is one of the 11 indicators of forced labour defined by the ILO.

“The government must ensure that the laws are implemented across all sectors of the economy in line with the International Labour Organization’s Recommendation 115 (Workers Housing Recommendation, 1961).”