Kuala Lumpur, February 20, 2021 – The industry understands that the proclamation of emergency was to allow the Government to contain the COVID-19 pandemic situation more effectively as it had reached alarming rates and was putting the national healthcare system under tremendous pressure with the surge in daily cases. It was a proactive measure to contain the worsening COVID-19 pandemic which was threatening the security, economic life and public order of the Federation.
While the industry agrees that the Emergency Ordinance can give the power to the Government to pass laws and directives that are in the interest of the nation during this emergency, the industry also calls on the Government to use those powers under the emergency ordinance to support and facilitate the business sector and maintain the confidence level of investors, both foreign and domestic, under the current circumstances in order for businesses to sustain operations, progress business recovery and at the same time safeguard the livelihood of the rakyat.
The industry is most concerned over how these powers have been used by the Government especially following the announcement by the Minister of Human Resources on February 18, 2021 on the gazette of laws relating to the housing of foreign workers i.e. the Emergency Ordinance (Minimum Standards on Housing, Accommodation and Employment Facilities) (Amendment) 2021 which amongst others makes it mandatory for employers to move their employees to temporary housing and bear all the costs associated with that move which comes up to RM270 per worker as well as increasing the fines for non-compliance to RM200,000 or imprisonment of three years or both that also covers these newly introduced requirements.
The industry is very troubled by how the powers under the Emergency Ordinance have been inappropriately used to force changes as well as impose harsh punishment with no consideration to the efforts taken and challenges faced by the industry in implementing the necessary adjustments to comply with the requirement of the Act 446. The Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR) and the Labour Department are well aware of the critical challenges faced towards compliance which are beyond the industry’s control and ability to solve and expedite. There continues to be critical shortage of accommodation space when sourcing for additional housing space and a critical lack of cooperation and coordination from key stakeholders involved in this entire process in particular the local authorities who hold the power to decide and approve on the types of buildings/spaces/locations that can be used as housing for workers. The rules and guidelines also differ from council to council, even within the same state. FMM had requested for a 12-month grace period on enforcement to allow industries and authorities to work together to sort these matters out with a detailed action plan from the industries on their compliance strategies. It must be recognised that moving workers to temporary housing is only a stop gap measure and there are other considerations to be factored in such as the cost and logistics/administrative arrangements which could make it even more challenging for employers to manage.
In addition, we note that MOHR intends to delegate their powers of enforcement of Act 446 to other Ministries and agencies. There is much concern over this decision which could result in overzealous enforcement by these other agencies due to the lack of understanding of the requirements and having their own interpretation of the law. Industries are already experiencing such treatment on the enforcement of the Covid-19 SOPs.
In this regard, FMM calls on the Government to use the Emergency Ordinance appropriately to facilitate public health matters and business operations with due recognition of the equal hardship that industries continue to face in light of the pandemic. We also request that the enforcement efforts by the Ministries and agencies with delegated powers be streamlined and are conducted according to standard guidelines and in accordance to the general requirements of the law.