Give us a year before enforcing new worker housing laws, builders' groups urge Government

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 25 Feb 2021

PETALING JAYA: Construction industry players are appealing to the Government for a one-year grace period before enforcing new laws on standard housing for their workers.

They said the latest amendments to the Employees’ Minimum Standards of Housing, Accommodations and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446) need time for compliance.

“While we commend the initiative to provide a conducive living space for workers, the amendments to Act 446 which were gazetted on Feb 17,2021, as part of the Emergency Ordinance took place at a rather (inopportune) time while taking into account the unfavourable economic situation," they said in a joint statement on Thursday (Feb 25).

“The rising of construction costs and standard operating procedure compliance costs have caused cash flow problems and financial constraints for contractors.

“There is a need for sufficient time for the industry to recover, ” they added.

The joint statement was issued by construction associations consisting of the Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM), Persatuan Kontraktor Melayu Malaysia (PKMM), Persatuan Kontraktor Bumiputera Malaysia (PKBM), Persatuan Kontraktor India Malaysia (PKIM), Guild of Bumiputra Contractors Wibawa (GBC Wibawa) and United Malaysia Contractors Association (UMCA).

The groups appealed for the one-year deferral to give the industry time to prepare itself, and also to gather the necessary finances to comply with requirements under the amended Act 446.

They said the grace period may also be used to further educate the industry players on the need for compliance with the provisions of the law.

The industry players noted that under the latest amendments, employers who are unable to provide proper housing facilities in accordance with Act 446 are then required to provide temporary accommodation, which would cost RM270 per worker.

“In a total lump sum per construction site, the (cumulative) amount to be paid by employers will be quite hefty.

“For failure to comply with these instructions, the employers and those providing the accommodation can be fined RM200,000 or jailed up to three years, or both.

“This amended fine during the current weak economic situation is too drastic and it will seriously disrupt the industry's revival initiatives," they said adding that many builders were still struggling to maintain their operations and jobs after being severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The groups said contractors were also put in a difficult situation as the delegation of enforcement powers under the ongoing Emergency Ordinance could lead to conflicting interpretations of the law by the different authorities involved.

They added that local councils and agencies' rules and guidelines may differ from one to the other, even within the same state.

This, they said, could cause confusion among industry players as to which authorities they should comply with.

“The construction industry is of the view that all construction-related issues have to be under the single unified supervision of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB).

“This includes overseeing enforcement inspections and approvals for Certificates of Accommodation, ” they said.

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