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FMM wants more time to implement workers' housing, amenities provision

FMM In The News: NEW STRAITS TIMES, KUALA LUMPUR, Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) has sought for additional time to allow its members to undertake the necessary adjustments to comply with the Workers' Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446).

This was due to the current weak economic conditions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent Movement Control Order (MCO).

FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai described the full enforcement of the law, which was to take place from today (Sept 1) with fines of RM50,000 for each offence, as being too drastic and would severely hamper the business revival initiatives of most industries.

The law was gazetted on Sept 18, last year with the date of enforcement announced on May 27, this year with employers given a three month grace period to comply.

However, Soh said the regulation accompanying the law which provided greater detail was only gazetted and released on the Attorney General's Chambers' website on Aug 28.

He agreed that the amendments to the Act were a step in the right direction as it was important to ensure proper and decent housing for the workers.

"Amendments to Act 446, in light of the Covid-19 outbreak, was good for the industry in enhancing the living environment that is conducive for all workers including foreign workers and ensuring a healthy and productive workforce which is a critical component to make Malaysia an advance country that adheres to the stipulated International Labour Organisation (ILO) conditions,"

"Most certainly, the amendments are also meant to streamline the domestic standards with that of international standards given that Malaysia is largely a trading nation and part of global supply chains", he said in a statement.

He said based on the briefings conducted by the Labour Department nationwide, employers, industries especially the SMEs, would find it challenging to fulfil all the conditions immediately by Sept 1 as there would be adjustments needed to be made to meet the provisions of the regulations.

This included complying with the sleeping/personal space for each worker as stipulated in the minimum standards for accommodation.

"Many industries have to resort to shophouses for accommodation as they are met with objection from residents of housing estates when trying to house workers in dwellings within residential areas with close proximity to the industrial estates," he said.

He said there was also a need to renovate buildings/space to ensure compliance to the minimum standards for accommodation as well as converting non-residential buildings to buildings for dwelling/accommodation.

Soh said there was also the need to obtain building approvals/certificate of accommodation from the Labour Department and local councils.

"With the expanded scope of the law now to cover employers in all sectors/all workplaces under the City Council/Municipal Council, there are concerns on whether all local authorities are prepared and/or ready to facilitate and expedite approvals by employers to comply with the Act since the finer details of the Regulations were only just shared.

"There could be delays in approvals due to technical procedures. The delays by the local council would have wide ranging impact on manufacturers," he said.

He added that the adjustments that have to be undertaken would come with cost and time to the industry.

In light of the current weak economic conditions, most industries were still struggling to sustain their business and maintain employment while rebuilding.

"In this regard, FMM reiterates our full support for the enhancement to the law which in the long-term would be of a great benefit and advantage for the industry and the nation.

"However, given our current fragile business conditions and to facilitate industries towards compliance, FMM is appealing to the Minister of Human Resources to allow a further 12-month grace period for companies to undertake these extensive adjustments according to the requirements of the law with an assurance of a detailed action plan on their compliance strategies without imposing an immediate penalty," Soh said.

He suggested that the next 12 months be used to continually educate the industry and issue a notice of non-compliance for improvements by industry in conformity to the provisions of the law.

"There should also be a requirement for a firm commitment by the industry on the action plan towards compliance within a specified timeframe appropriate to the relevant areas of non-compliance." he said.

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