IPOH, August 31 — The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) today said no significant moves have been taken by employers to improve the poor living conditions of foreign workers despite the three-month grace period for employers to comply with the amended Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 which ends today.
MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon said migrant workers continue to live in cramped and squalid conditions at their worksites, rented apartments and terrace houses.
“The law which covers the housing and amenities for workers in all sectors were passed last year July.
“Employers have been given adequate time to comply, therefore the government should not succumb to any excuses by employers such as citing financial drawbacks due to Covid-19 as a reason for the delay in the adherence to the law,” he said in a statement today.
He pointed out that Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had on many occasions reminded that migrant worker’s cramped and crowded living conditions are a major reason for transmission of Covid-19.
“Despite his warnings, employers force as many as 15 to 20 workers to share a three-room apartment of less than 1,000 square feet with one or two washrooms. The situation in many ‘kongsi’ is even worse.
“The pathetic living conditions of migrant workers in Malaysia even before the Covid-19 outbreak is a clear violation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions,” he said.
He said government and employers should not take lightly of the issue as many countries use the ILO indicators as a benchmark in their international trade dealings.
“This would affect Malaysian entrepreneurs who fail to provide decent housing for their workers.
“Already, over the past year, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has taken action against at least two Malaysian companies — Top Glove and WRP Asia by blocking the import of their products into the countries under laws meant to stop forced labour.
“Amid claims by the companies that the matter has been or is being resolved, the reality is that the treatment of migrant workers, including their living conditions, will remain to be a central issue as many countries clamp down on forced labour, using the ILO indicators,” he explained.
Solomon urged the government especially the Human Resource Ministry to enforce the new laws that address the living conditions of migrant workers in all sectors starting from tomorrow.