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Workers’ appalling living quarters

19 Jan 2021 / 11:31 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: Checks by the Labour Department and other government agencies on hostels for foreign workers found more than 300 of them living in cramped and damp conditions.

The checks were conducted on living quarters provided by two employers, a nasi kandar shop and a supermarket, all employing foreign workers.

Officers conducting checks at the workplaces directed the workers to take them to their hostels to check their living conditions.

Journalists who surveyed the hostels were surprised to see the cramped conditions.

The hostels had signs saying only six people were allowed to live in a room but there were at least 11 to 12 bunk beds in each room.

At one hostel there was only one bathroom and one toilet for 11 people.

The hostel had next to no ventilation and the workers had to wash their clothes outside the bathroom before hanging them to dry within the same area.

When asked why they were sleeping on plywood, the workers said they were supplied with mattresses but because of bed bug infestation, they decided to get rid of them and sleep on plywood.

Peninsular Malaysia Labour Department enforcement director Zaini Yaacob said the department would be taking action against the employers for breaching the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities (Amendment) Act 2019.

He said the employers were in breach of Section 24 of the Act for failing to provide proper accommodation to their workers.

“We found the accommodation provided to be cramped and without proper ventilation but they have had their Covid-19 tests done.”

Zaini said his officers were still carrying out investigations to determine which other sections of the Act had been breached.

He said the employers could be fined up to RM50,000 for each offence.

Zaini urged employers to apply to the Labour Department to certify their accommodation to ensure it meets the standards set out by the Act.

He said if any employer was unclear about what they need to do to meet the minimum standards, they should contact the department for help.

The Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities (Amendment) Act 2019 (Act 446), which extends to all employment sectors providing housing and accommodation for workers, came into force on June 1 last year.

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