KLANG | Many employers are still not meeting the Labour Department’s criteria for worker accommodation, according to the director of the Labour Department for Peninsular Malaysia Mohd Jeffrey Joakim.
He said, the department was monitoring these companies and might take legal action.
“We see many employers who have met these criteria but still, there are many who need to improve their worker accommodation amenities,” he said.
Jeffrey said the department was currently updating the criteria for their Minimum Standard of Housing for Foreign Workers in line with The Workers’ Minimum Standard of Housing and Amenities (Amendment) Bill 2019, which was passed in Parliament last July 15.
Under the new law, he said, employers who failed to meet minimum standards might face a fine of up to RM50,000 or a two-year jail sentence, or both.
“That shows the seriousness of the government in combatting forced labour practices, and ensuring workers are given decent protection and treatment in all aspects,” he said.
Under these guidelines, he said an employer who provides accommodation to their workers must meet minimum size requirements for rooms, with toilets and shower facilities, complete with healthy and clean air circulation and emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers.
Each worker must be provided with their own space for rest. This would include their own bed (measuring not less than 1.7 metre square for each worker). The employer must also provide a secure closet with a lock to keep important documents such as passports and permits, aside from basic personal items.
A toilet and a shower must be provided for every 15 workers. The accommodation building must also come with security to avoid outsiders from entering.
“We also encourage providing workers with recreational amenities,” he said, adding that they also looked at social aspects such as spaces for worship.
Jeffrey said that as a policy, employers were allowed to deduct a maximum of RM50 from workers’ salaries a month if they provided accommodation for them.
He added that Malaysian companies were “under the watchful eyes of so many people out there”, following a ban on a Malaysian rubber glove manufacturer by US authorities last October over allegations of forced labour.
“We do not want to see a repeat of this – for the sake of the workers and the sustainability of companies in our country,” he said.
He was speaking to reporters after a working visit to the Wear Safe (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd factory, a glove manufacturer which is also a subsidiary of the KOSSAN Group.
Jeffrey said Wear Safe was among the local companies which had prioritised the need to meet the standards for worker accommodation.
Pung Kian Chuan, the general manager of operations at Wear Safe, said their quarters cost approximately RM8 million to build. It has two blocks with three levels each – each level has 15 rooms, and each room houses 12 workers.
The quarters come with a laundromat, a canteen, a surau for Muslim workers, two all-purpose halls for recreational activities and an outdoor court for sports.
Pung said yearly maintenance costs might reach “hundred thousands of ringgit”.