KUALA LUMPUR: To become a high-income nation, the government plans to introduce new laws on housing and amenities for construction workers.
Deputy Works Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said the Human Resources Ministry was drafting the new act. It would not only ensure better welfare for foreign workers but also elevate the industry.
“It will improve productivity and do away with eyesores in the form of workers’ quarters, or rumah kongsi.
“We need to put in place laws that would better regulate the construction industry. It is a necessity,” she told the New Straits Times.
“We should not allow unscrupulous opportunists to manipulate foreign workers. We need laws that would compel developers to be more professional.”
A heightened level of professionalism, she said, would encourage more locals to consider taking up jobs in construction.
“Locals are not keen to work in construction because of the perception that their welfare would not be taken care of.”
Rosnah said advancements in the industry demanded skilled workers and most foreign labourers, despite their low wages, were not properly trained.
“The use of modern equipment, technology and methods requires skilled workers. It is no longer about hammers and saws.”
Last year, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the government would make it compulsory for employers to provide at least a minimum standard accommodation for their foreign workers. He warned that employers who failed to comply with the ruling would not be able to hire new foreign workers.
At present, there is the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446) for estate workers. However, it does apply to the construction sector.
According to Labour Department director-general Datuk Mohd Jeffrey Joakim, this resulted in contractors being unaware of the negative impacts of unstructured and unsupervised foreign workers’ accommodation like social problems, spreading of diseases and pollution.
To tackle this, amendments to Act 446 was being looked into to include expansion of its enforcement to all sectors.
For now, construction companies intending to build their own workers’ accommodation are to comply with the Temporary Construction Site Workers’ Amenities and Accommodation — Code of Practice (MS2593:2015) issued by the Standards Malaysia Department under the purview of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB).
The Labour Department carries out inspection on workplaces and accommodations from time to time and upon application for foreign workers recruitment.
Otherwise, Jeffrey said employers were encouraged to house their foreign workers in a Centralised Labour Quarters. (CLQ).
He said eight CLQs had been recognised by the department.