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If the glove fits

Consistent monitoring is crucial to ensure rigid compliance with high standards of worker health and safety

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This would be funny if lives were not at stake.

Ever since Human Resource Minister M Saravanan discovered the squalid conditions of migrant workers’ quarters, enforcement agencies, particularly human resource officers, have apparently been busy visiting similar accommodation to ascertain compliance with safety and health regulations.

This is against a backdrop of Covid-19 clusters that have emerged from workers’ working and living environments, and also at a time when cases of infection have spiked significantly.

But the serious matter took a form of levity when a factory owner was tipped off by “government insiders” – as Saravanan reportedly claimed – that there would be a raid on the workers’ dormitories.

This subversion resulted in the employer concerned emptying the cramped living quarters of the workers and shifting them to a nearby hotel, thereby depriving the officers of fully knowing the poor conditions of the dormitories. Shrewd and fast move by the employer.

It was almost like a wild goose chase, utilising human and material resources at the expense of taxpayers’ money.

The factory owner even insisted that the workers did not complain, even though the condition of their dormitories does require improving.

As if to add salt to injury, the factory was fined a paltry sum of RM1,000 for having violated several safety regulations. This also means it escaped shutdown.

This sum may be a lot to the desperate, such as the family in Penang who had to live in a car after their house perished in a fire, but it is peanuts to factory owners. To be sure, it is a fine that is staggeringly lower than the RM8,000 that a person found breaking the Covid-19 standard operating procedures was slapped with some time ago.

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Indeed, the slap on the wrist sends a wrong signal to other employers who may not think twice about violating rules pertaining to workers’ health and safety. This is as outrageous as letting certain ministers off the hook despite them breaching Covid-19 standard operating procedures – while offering a bad example to the ordinary people.

Consistent and constant monitoring is crucial to ensure rigid compliance with high standards of worker health and safety protection comparable to those of advanced countries. Which is why it is comforting to learn that the Ministry of Human Resources will be launching a new app on January 11 that would enable workers to inform the government through their cell phones about errant employers neglecting their workers’ welfare.

The multilingual app is to help local and foreign workers give information directly to the government to expedite necessary actions against erring employers.

Having said that, some workers may feel nervous about reaching out to the authorities regarding their employers if there is a possibility of their identities being leaked out to their employers by certain “insiders”. The workers concerned may face dismissal or the brunt of their employers’ anger, who are in the know.

As for migrant workers who are in a more vulnerable position, some of them may not be willing to contact the government through this application as it would mean making themselves visible and, hence, they might fear being subjected to discriminatory treatment.

While the app can be useful to the workers, trust in the authorities is also essential.

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Source: The Malaysian Insight

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