KUALA LUMPUR: About 91.1 per cent or 1.4 million foreign workers in Malaysia are not provided with accommodation that comply with provisions in the Workers' Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 or Act 446, said Malaysian Human Resources Minister M Saravanan on Thursday (Dec 3).
Saravanan said he found the statistics "very worrying", especially with the current COVID-19 pandemic.
He added that the government only received applications for the certificate of accommodation for only 143,587 foreign workers, or 8.83 per cent of the 1.6 million foreign workers in Malaysia as of Oct 31.
"This situation clearly shows that employers and providers of centralised accommodation for 1.4 million foreign workers in Malaysia still fail to apply for the certificate from the Department of Manpower Peninsular Malaysia (JTKSM)," said Saravanan, who was speaking to reporters at a press conference on Thursday.
Senior Minister (security cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob was also present.
Saravanan said enforcement would be carried out, and action would also be taken against errant employers.
"Since (the) enforcement of Act 446 last Sep 1, JKTSM has conducted 1,850 inspections involving 1,813 employers and 37 centralised accommodation providers throughout the Peninsula and the Federal Territory of Labuan.
"JTKSM is targeting 25,000 inspections by 2021," he said.
Ismail Sabri, who is also chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers, said the certificate of accommodation will be a prerequisite for employers who intend to hire new foreign workers as of Jul 1, 2021.
"Before an employer makes an application to bring in foreign workers, the employer must obtain the certificate from the Ministry of Human Resources to enable the Malaysian Immigration Department to issue a visa.
"This means, before foreign workers arrive in the country, the employers are required to make available accommodation that complies with Act 4467. Otherwise, the foreign workers are (regarded) illegal immigrants,” said Ismail Sabri.
He also reminded employers that the Act not only includes foreign workers, but local workers as well.
"The focus of Act 446 at the moment is on foreign workers due to high number of COVID-19 cases among them," he said.
Ismail Sabri said the second meeting of the Special Committee on the Coordination of Foreign Workers also agreed for the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to expedite the approval of employers' applications to build workers' living quarters.
TOP GLOVE INVESTIGATED OVER WORKERS' HOUSING
On Tuesday, the Malaysian government said it opened 19 investigation papers into six of Top Glove Corporation's subsidiaries over offences involving workers' dormitories.
This followed simultaneous enforcement operations carried out by JTKSM last Thursday.
“The main offence was that the employers failed to apply for accommodation certification from the Labour Department under Section 24D of the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990,” JTKSM director-general Asri Ab Rahman said on Tuesday.
READ: Businesses and residents near Top Glove dormitories on edge, as COVID-19 cases spike among workers
This had led to other offences including congested accommodations and dormitories, which were uncomfortable and poorly ventilated, he added.
In addition, the buildings used to accommodate the workers did not comply with local authorities’ by-laws.
“JTKSM will take the next step to refer the investigation papers already opened, to the Deputy Public Prosecutor so that all these offences can be investigated under the Act,” Asri said.
Each violation under the Act carries an RM50,000 (US$12,270) fine as well as potential jail time.