Thursday, December 3, 2020

Workers' Minimum Standards Of Housing And Amenities Act 1990 And Deplorable Living Conditions

 Workers' Minimum Standards Of Housing And Amenities Act 1990 And Deplorable Living Conditions 

After visiting the Top Glove migrant workers dormitories, the Minister Of Human Resources is reported to have said that he found it deplorable. If that be the case, in the  the world's largest manufacturer of rubber gloves, we are left wondering whether that would be the state of affairs in all other sectors that depends on migrant workers to roll-out production.

MTUC Penang Division wishes to commend the Minister's statement that, the entire labour department's resources would be mobilised to investigate the matter.

So much as we appreciate the Minister's concerns what needs to be postulated is whether his ministry would also adopt the same approach in all other sectors be it manufacturing, plantation or construction. 

Though, the Workers' Minimum Standards Of Housing And Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446), has been around for a long time it is sad that the government has only recognised it's usefulness in reference to the Top Glove Teratai Covid-19 cluster. The announcement, by the  senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakop, that the said Act would be enforced immediately is a manifestation of a knee jerk political response whilst the said law ought to have been enforced much, much earlier. 

Clearly, the Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed the concerns of trade unions, and activist, of the unacceptable living conditions provided to migrant workers. When such concerns were, then, raised by activist we were accused of peddling half truths or, worst still, down right lies. 

Now that, the Human Resources Minister has seen it for himself, we hope that affirmative action would be forthcoming without fear or favour irregardless of the clout that big corporations so yield. The Honourable Minister's pronouncement should not, we hope, be another public relations exercise - all full of sound and fury but signifying nothing!

In conclusion we also call upon the government to pay attention to the living conditions of the undocumented migrant workers and domestic workers who have not being given due recognition to their contributions in sustaining economic activities of the nation. They remain ostracised only on account of their non-documented status. And, in the case of domestic workers, their exclusion from protection under the prevailing legal framework. 

Though, that be the case there is no justification for the government to deny them their basic right to acceptable living conditions, access to health care and social security protection.

Our nation cannot lay claim, to being part of the international community, if it abrogates it's moral obligations to the millions of non-documented migrant workers who have been toiling to sustain the country's economic transformation. They, too, are an integral composition of the nation's economic endeavours and, as such, ought to be accorded due recognition per se. 

K. Veeriah


Malaysian Trades Union Congress 

Penang Division 

016 4184520