Malaysian builders’ coalition seeks one-year extension from govt to adapt to amended workers’ housing law
File picture shows Northern Seberang Perai police chief ACP Noorzainy Md Noor inspecting foreign workers’ living quarters at a construction site in Bertam, February 8, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — The construction industry has appealed to the government for a one-year grace period to adjust before the amended Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 can be properly implemented.

A coalition of construction industry associations said that although the amended Act is commendable as it provides a conducive living space for workers, enforcing it right away would have a detrimental effect on industry players.

It cited one of the penalties for failure to provide proper housing facilities for workers, a RM200,000 fine, three years’ imprisonment, or both.

“This amended fine during the current weak economic situation is too drastic and it will seriously disrupt the industry’s revival initiatives that are still struggling to maintain their operations and jobs after being severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the coalition in a statement.

It added the necessity for employers to provide temporary accommodation in the event they are unable to provide proper housing facilities as a costly measure, as this would mean spending RM270 per worker.

“The amendments to Act 446 which took place at a rather inaccurate time while taking into account the unfavourable economic situation.

“The rising of construction costs and SOPs compliance costs have caused cash flow problems and financial constraints for contractors. There is a need for sufficient time for the industry to recover,” said the coalition.

Similarly, the amended Act also places contractors in a bind, as the delegation of enforcement powers under the Emergency Ordinance has the potential of misinterpreting the law, due to the lack of understanding by the many different authorities.

“Different local councils and authority agencies, even within the same state, may have different set of rules and guidelines. This will cause great confusion to the industry players on which enforcement to comply with.

“The construction industry is of the view that all construction-related issues have to be under a single unified supervision of the Construction Industry Development Board. This includes the overlooking of enforcement inspections and the approval of the Certificate of Accommodation,” it said.

The proposed grace period would not only allow industry players to better prepare themselves to comply chronologically and fiscally, but will also be useful in further educating the industry on the need to adhere to such regulations in accordance with the provisions of the law.

“In light of this matter, we are ready to share our views and continue to work closely with the

government to revive the construction industry and the Malaysian economy at large,” said the coalition.

The statement was jointly signed by the Master Builders Association Malaysia, Persatuan Kontraktor Melayu Malaysia, Persatuan Kontraktor Bumiputera Malaysia, Persatuan Kontraktor India Malaysia, Guild of Bumiputra Contractors Wibawa, and the United Malaysia Contractors Association.

The Act was gazetted last Wednesday (February 17) as part of the Emergency Ordinance. Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan said the Act also mandates that employers step forward to report any undocumented foreign workers in their employ, who are required to be vaccinated under the national Covid-19 vaccination programme.