MTUC calls for stringent checks on workplaces, migrant workers’ dorms after fresh outbreak of Covid-19 cases

Solomon said employers must work hand in hand immediately with the Human Resources Ministry and the Health Ministry to draw up specific guidelines and procedures at workers’ quarters to halt the spread of the virus. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Solomon said employers must work hand in hand immediately with the Human Resources Ministry and the Health Ministry to draw up specific guidelines and procedures at workers’ quarters to halt the spread of the virus. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 — The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) today called on the relevant agencies to conduct immediate checks on workplaces and foreign workers’ dormitories nationwide, to mitigate fresh outbreaks of Covid-19 cases.

MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon said it was regrettable that MTUC’s calls have been ignored thus far with little or no monitoring in ensuring employers have enforced the guidelines and SOPs at workplaces. 

Worse still, Solomon said there has hardly been any move to compel employers to provide suitable accommodation for foreign workers to minimise the risk of infections.

“It is clear that the various government agencies such as Ministry of Human Resources, Immigration, Fire and Rescue Department and the Local Council have shirked their responsibilities to ensure that the migrant workers are given proper accommodation by the employers as stipulated 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 which is shared by workers when they are on or off shift,” he said in a statement here.

This comes after Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said a construction site in Kuala Lumpur is the latest cluster of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, with 44 positive cases detected there alone.

Dr Noor Hisham said there was a high possibility that foreign workers who work at construction sites live in closed and confined spaces, adding that he believes that to be the main factor for how infections could spread among foreign workers at construction sites.

Therefore, Solomon said employers must work hand in hand immediately with the Human Resources Ministry and the Health Ministry to draw up specific guidelines and procedures at workers’ quarters to halt the spread of the virus. 

“We urge employers and the government to make this a top priority as any clusters in workers’ dormitories or living quarters will involve public safety as the employees normally live in rented apartments, houses or shop lots in residential areas. 

“Labour inspectorates play a critical role in protecting workers by monitoring and enforcing compliance to the provisions of labour laws and standards. Labour inspection will guide workers and employers to improve employment and working conditions, by identifying loopholes and gaps in the system. 

“Effective collaboration is the best channel to prevent and eradicate unacceptable forms of work and workplaces, which are a gross violation of fundamental human rights,” he said, adding that MTUC has in the past urged the Labour Department to carry out collaborative inspection but this was met with poor response.

Solomon also cited the statement issued by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) in urging the authorities to do more than just have foreign workers undergo Covid-19 screenings as it may give workers and employers a false sense of security. 

Yesterday, MMA president Dr N. Ganabaskaran said while testing for Covid-19 was important, more emphasis should be placed on preventing exposure to risks of infections.

“Like MTUC, the MMA has also observed that the majority of foreign workers in the country stay in overcrowded, cramped dormitories, construction site cabins, or hostels in shop lot rooms, terrace houses or apartments, where physical distancing may be almost impossible to observe.

“As such, MTUC fully supports MMA president Dr N. Ganabaskaran called on employers to improve the poor living conditions of foreign workers and recognise the fact that merely testing their employees would be insufficient to prevent an outbreak of the virus,” Solomon said.

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