Sim Kiang Chiok

KUCHING: Enforcing stricter laws on foreign workers’ living conditions would help control the spread of the Covid-19 virus, said Sarawak Housing and Real Estate Developers Association (Sheda) Kuching chairman Sim Kiang Chiok.

He said such enforcement was necessary to ensure employers in the construction industry were responsible in providing better accommodation and quarters for their foreign workers.

“On the latest announcement by the government to enforce the Malaysian Standard for Construction Site Workers Amenities and Accommodation 2016, and the Workers Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act (Act 466) 2019 laws for construction industry under the Human Resources Ministry, these would be able to safeguard the health conditions of the foreign workers in Sarawak, particularly against the Covid-19 virus,” he said in a statement today.

Citing the State Disaster Management Committee’s estimation of 138,183 foreign workers legally registered in the state, he said employers should prioritise public health and wellbeing.

“However, this new law will increase the compliance cost in construction and development, which will be translated and transferred to the end users.

“This will require employers to provide better accommodation or worker’s quarters that are more hygienic and healthier.

“But of course, human life is more precious and to stop the spread of the coronavirus,” he added.

However, Sim explained that managing the undocumented foreign workers was not as easy as those legally registered.

“Registered foreign workers in our country are much easier for the government to monitor and control as these workers have their sponsors or employers registered and approved by the Immigration and Labour departments.

“However, for the unregistered workers or illegals, on-going enforcement of arresting and sending them back to their countries are being carried out.

“The National Security Council (NSC) recently announced that those tested negative for Covid-19 will be sent back immediately whilst those who are tested positive will be treated first before sending them back to their countries of origin,” he added.

He said there was a need to conduct screening tests on foreign workers in construction sites that had resumed operations following the conditional movement control order (CMCO).

“This test must be carried out and all cost borne by the Social Security Organisation (Socso). The foreign workers must be screened for Covid-19 before they can return to work,” he said.