THE move to house foreign workers away from their work premises to unsupervised locations could lead to social issues and force employers to bear an ongoing financial loss, says Johor Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs Association (Perusim) secretary Hussein Ibrahim.
He said Indian Muslim restaurants preferred to have their workers stay on the second floor of the restaurant as it was much more cost-effective and easier to manage.
“We have submitted an appeal to the Labour Department but have not received a positive reply as they wanted the workers to be placed at different locations.
“These decisions will only hurt the restaurant owners in terms of paying the monthly hostel rental fee and the transportation cost of sending the workers to and from the workplace every day,” Hussein told StarMetro.
The Johor Labour Department had, in 2019, given restaurant owners one year to provide separate housing for their workers.
However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, restaurant owners were given a one-year extension. The department had begun enforcing the ruling this month.
Hussein said that moving workers to different locations also took a huge financial toll as businesses had just started to revive after the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The government needs to consider that there is shortage of foreign workers in restaurants currently as most of them had gone back home due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“We are also operating at limited capacity as business hours are now shorter compared to before the movement control order was imposed,” he added.
Hussein explained that all basic needs of the foreign workers, including safe accommodation, were provided for by the restaurant owners.
“We have ensured that there is proper physical distancing between workers, a maximum capacity in each room, properly sanitised amenities and a separate laundry rack.
“If we housed them at different locations, they might decide not to come to work and run away, which in the end could only lead to more social problems for the locals and the government.
“By having them stay on the second floor of the restaurant, it will be much easier for us to monitor our workers and get them what they need,” he said.
Hussein said this when asked to comment on the employers’ obligations to provide minimum accommodation requirements under the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446) to curb the spread of Covid-19, especially among foreign workers.
Meanwhile, Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia (DPMM) president Abd Halim Husin said the amendment to Act 446 announced by Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan was crucial to curb the threat of Covid-19 infection.
“There are cases where foreign workers working in different shifts share the same bedroom, which is unhygienic and does not meet the human rights standards.
“By providing them with good accommodation, we can also help reduce the risk of infection spreading to the local community,” he said.
Saravanan had said that the government intended to amend laws to include stricter provisions to ensure a minimum standard for workers’ accommodation, similar to what was in the now-annulled Emergency Ordinance.
Among these are the power by the ministry’s secretary-general to order employers to replace, change or upgrade the facilities if it does not meet the minimum criteria.
The secretary-general could also order employers to immediately relocate their workers to temporary accommodation.