Help migrant workers in the battle against COVID-19

DO not neglect the safety and plight of our foreign workers in the effort to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to FocusM, the Building and Wood Workers International Malaysian Liaison Council (BWI-MLC) said everyone should be involved in the effort to contain the pandemic, including foreign workers.

“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 our foreign workers.

“We urge the Government and the relevant authorities to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to cater for the needs of these workers during this difficult time,” said its spokesperson Nor Azlan Yaakob.

Few days ago, a few photographs showing foreign workers, with pink wristbands, working in local construction site went viral on Facebook.

Following an outcry, Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah clarified that foreign workers seen around a construction site, although wearing pink wristbands, were allowed to do so as they were involved in community screenings and not close-contact screenings.

Pink wristbands are issued to those who have undergone COVID-19 surveillance screening but are prevented from leaving the construction site.

Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob then said that the Government was mulling the idea to direct all foreign workers to wear the pink wristband, to identify them in public in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases linked to them.

Azlan said that Malaysia’s treatment of its migrant workers during the pandemic has been subject to public scrutiny, with reports that the latter were being confined in cramped dormitories with unsanitary living conditions during the movement control order (MCO).

“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 relevant authorities to ensure all aspects of their welfare is being taken care of,” he said.

Azlan added that the Government should also monitor the free COVID-19 tests for workers, under the Social Security Organisation’s (Socso) Prihatin Screening Programme (PSP).

Under the programme, the cost for the initial tests are supposed to be borne by the employers.

“The authorities must 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, employers must also provide food, proper living conditions and even mental health support during their quarantine period.

“We must remember that since the migrant workers are not allowed to leave the site, the onus up the employers to provide them with quality food and other necessity,” he said.

Azlan added that migrant workers’ living quarters must 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,” he said.

As the newly amended Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act has come to force as of Sept 1, Azlan said the Government must ensure all employers comply with the law.

“Previously, some employers even cramp up one room with almost 20 people. All this has been done away with under the new law and the Government must ensure compliance,” he said. – Nov 21, 2020

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