Labour Day: Hopes turning to rubble for construction industry workers


  • Malaysia
  • Friday, 01 May 2020

With construction sites closed during the MCO, many workers can't help being anxious about their future. Photos: Filepic

To mark Labour Day, StarLifestyle is highlighting the stories of workers from various sectors who have found ways to cope with the challenges of the pandemic and share their hopes and fears in these difficult times.

For Jimmy Lee, 37, life really came to a standstill when the movement control order (MCO) was enforced.

Lee, who works for a construction company, runs a few residential and commercial projects in the Klang Valley and outstation.

“It has been one and a half months, but things are still stuck, ” he says.

“Safety and following the MCO are important, ” he adds, but the father of two young children admits that he can’t help being anxious about the future.

“During the MCO, the construction sites are closed and projects can’t proceed. Because of this, progress payments are held up and as a result, a lot of our workers’ livelihood are impacted, ” he says.

Lee himself has only been partially paid since March. He is unsure whether he will be paid for the rest of the year since it is uncertain how long the Covid-19 situation will last.

Although there is some leeway given to construction companies when the third phase of the MCO was announced, this involves only critical projects.

“We did try to apply to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) and Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) to proceed with our construction work but we did not receive the necessary approvals, ” Lee says.

Only construction works such as the MRT construction, and those requiring deep excavation up to 40m in depth or a long span structure along the highway are allowed because stopping these works may result in sinkholes and landslides, he explains.

Like Lee, many who work in the construction industry, are concerned about their future. Like Lee, many who work in the construction industry, are concerned about their future.

For now, Lee, who says that a majority of his work involves being on site, is content to stay home.

“I guess I’m lucky since my wife is in essential services and is still working, so we can survive – for now, ” he says.

Lee’s wife works at a restaurant that is doing takeaways and food deliveries during the MCO.

“But our children (aged seven and five) are now at home all the time. Their school and kindergarten are closed and we can’t send them to the babysitter. So, perhaps it works out for the best that I’m now full-time at home, ” he notes.

“I get a taste of what it is like being a house-husband, ” he laughs.

He admits that looking after the kids and helping them with their schoolwork, while seeing to other household chores, as well as handling some paperwork for his office, is not as easy as it appears. Plus, he has to weigh his options for the future.

But, despite the situation, Lee chooses to remain optimistic.

“It’s an unexpected situation that can’t be controlled.

“Nobody knows when the pandemic situation can be resolved, ” he says.

“But we have to stay optimistic for our childrens’ sake. And if we want to survive, then we also have to evolve with the times, ” he concludes.

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