Foreign construction workers confined, but protected?

Are these foreign workers exposed to vulnerable living conditions?

FILE PIX

Building and Wood Workers International Malaysian Liaison Council (BWI-MLC) has raised concerns over viral social media images of foreign construction workers wearing pink wristbands indicating that they have had close contact with COVID-19 patients.  

Quarantine wristbands are a mandatory requirement for all individuals who have had close contact with COVID-19 patients.

However, the Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah recently clarified that the workers in the images are amongst those who are currently being tested for COVID-19 as part of a mandatory surveillance screening.

He further added that the pink quarantine wristbands worn by these workers are to monitor them so that they do not leave their construction site.  

“While we acknowledge the precautionary step being taken by the Government to curb the spread of the virus, one can’t help but wonder about the welfare of these workers”, said BWI-MLC spokesperson Azlan Yaakob.

“It is not enough to merely think about our own country’s need to tackle this virus, whilst selfishly neglecting our foreign workers.

We call on the Government and the relevant authorities to ensure that appropriate measures are being taken to cater to the basic needs of these workers during a difficult time.” 

Malaysia’s treatment of migrant workers during this pandemic has been a subject of much scrutiny, with reports of foreign workers confined to cramped dormitories and enduring unsanitary living conditions during the Movement Control Order (MCO) gaining international widespread media attention.  

“Are these foreign workers exposed to vulnerable living conditions? If they are being subjected to mandatory COVID-19 tests, it should be the responsibility of both the employers and the relevant authorities to ensure all aspects of their welfare is being taken care of.”  

Further, the recent expansion of SOCSO’s Prihatin Screening Programme (PSP) includes free COVID-19 screening for workers but employers are expected to cover the cost of the initial testing first.  

Azlan said that the authorities had to ensure that the cost of testing was being borne by the employers, and not “coming out of the pockets of these foreign workers. On top of this, providing food, proper living conditions and even mental health support during their quarantine period is essential.” 

Dormitories, said Azlan, had to be sanitised and upgraded if necessary to avoid conditions that could lead to the spread of the coronavirus. 

“Disinfection work should not just be carried out at construction sites, but also dormitories and common spaces. 

 

Building and Wood Workers International Malaysian Liaison Council (BWI-MLC)
Kuala Lumpur


The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.