THE Government should exercise wisdom and prudence when using Emergency powers to protect lives and livelihoods of the people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We urge the Government to use the Emergency Ordinance to support and facilitate the business sector and maintain investors’ confidence, both foreign and domestic, under the current circumstances for businesses to sustain operations, boost recovery and safeguard the livelihood of the rakyat,” said the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai, in a statement.
With that said, the manufacturers’ group said they were concerned over the Human Resources Ministry (MOHR) gazette on Feb 18, in relation to providing accommodation to foreign workers.
The gazette, known as the Emergency Ordinance (Minimum Standards on Housing, Accommodation and Employment Facilities) (Amendment) 2021 (Act 446), among others, makes it mandatory for employers to move their employees to temporary accommodation.
Employers would also have to bear all the costs associated with it, which comes up to RM270 per worker.
In addition, the gazette also increases fines for non-compliance to RM200,000, or imprisonment of three years, or both, which covers these newly introduced requirements.
Soh said manufacturers are troubled by the new Ordinance, which is 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 Act 446.
He also stated that MOHR and the Labour Department are well aware of the critical challenges, with some being beyond the industry’s control.
Local authority problems
“There is a critical shortage of accommodation space for foreign workers, Plus, lack of cooperation and coordination from key stakeholders involved in the process, particularly the local authorities, who hold the power to decide and approve the types of buildings/spaces/locations which 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 from the industries on their compliance strategies.
“And we recognise that moving workers to a 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,” Soh stated.
On that note, he also voiced concerns over MOHR’s decision to delegate powers of Act 446 enforcement to other ministries and agencies, which could trigger a lot of problems.
Soh opined such delegation of powers may 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.
“And we know this because industries are already experiencing such treatment on the enforcement of the COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOP),” he added.
Soh the urged the Government to use the Emergency Ordinance to facilitate public health matters and business operations, with due recognition to hardship industries face due to the pandemic.
He stressed: “We also request that the enforcement efforts by the ministries and other agencies with delegated powers be streamlined and conducted according to standard guidelines and in accordance to the general requirements of the law.”- Feb 21, 2021.