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Plea for State intervention on staff housing
Published on: Sunday, March 07, 2021
By: Borneo Post Online
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Credit: propertyguru.com.my (For Illustration Purpose Only)
Kota Kinabalu: Thirteen associations in Sabah appealed to the State Government to hear their concerns on the imprompt promulgation of Minimum Housing Act 446 - Employees’ Minimum Standards of Housing Accommodations & Amenities Act under the Emergency Ordinance, that was extended to Sabah and Sarawak effective Feb. 26, this year. 

They are Sabah Employers Association (Sea), Timber Association of Sabah (Tas), Sabah Housing and Real Estate Developers Association (Shareda), Sabah Builders Association (SBA), Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Sabah Branch (FMM Sabah), SME Association of Sabah (SME), Sabah Timber Industry Association (STIA), Sabah Freight Forwarders and Logistics Association (Sabffla), Sabah Furniture Association (SFA), East Malaysia Planters Association (Empa), Federation of Sabah Industries (FSI), Malaysia Entrepreneurs’ Development Association (Pumm) and Sabah Omnibus Operators Association (Sooa). 

The associations and respective industries have been taken aback by the announcement, saying the Act has not been passed by Sabah State Legislative Assembly and incorporated into Sabah Labour Ordinance as there remain many unresolved issues pertaining to Sabah’s situation.

 As such the State Government had decided since 2019 to shelve the implementation of the Act pending further consultations. 

They regretted that “under the guise of Emergency Ordinance 2021, this Act is now applicable for Sabah and Sarawak, despite the many hanging issues still needing resolution”. 

This has created great confusion among all Sabah businesses and industries, with no clear guidelines on which to determine if employers are compliant with the Act, they said in a statement, Saturday.  

They said this situation contrasts greatly with Peninsular Malaysia, where employers were given clear guidelines early in 2020, and up to a year of grace period to prepare and get ready, without fear of punitive action being taken against them.

The enforcement agency under this Emergency Ordinance initiated Act – Jabatan Tenaga Kerja (JTK) – has been given wide power to inspect and issue hefty fines and compounds for non-compliance with up to RM200,000 or up to 3 years’ jail or both.

They said this has aroused concerns among employers with many having no idea if they are compliant, and if JTK is conducting inspections along Peninsular Malaysia’s guidelines, which might not take into account Sabah’s own situations fairly.

Unlike Peninsular Malaysia where central labour quarters (centralised accommodation) are common in order to cater for large scale manufacturers, construction companies and even food & beverage players, Sabah only has localised small scale players in manufacturing and service sectors and estates.

“Already facing 30pc higher costs of doing business than Peninsular Malaysia counterparts, and living on the thread after suffering financial losses from the pandemic last year, most Sabah employers face daunting cost constraints in providing staff accommodation despite the best intentions, if compelled to meet the standards of Peninsular Malaysia.

“Conflicts can arise too with employers getting certification of legitimacy of structures or housing for accommodation purposes from various state agencies. 

“Without proper synchronisation of rules and guidelines among the various agencies, employers can find violation of one local Act even if compliant with another, leading more to confusion and unnecessary costs. 

“On top of the high costs is the absence of time to get ready for the Act’s requirements, with whatever standard or guidelines as deemed fit by JTK. Add to that is the perplexing validity of the Act: the promulgation of this Act has only validity of a few months (will last only as long as Emergency Ordinance is in force). 

“The time challenge is further compounded, no time to get ready in face of immediate enforcement, and yet how much time given to get ready if Emergency Ordinance and the Act along with it expire before the end of the year?”

They said the associations and industries are cognisant of the fact that there must be a generally acceptable standard of housing for employees; both foreign and local. 

The Employees’ Minimum Standards of Housing Accommodations & Amenities Act 446 however must be fair and equitable for both employers and employees. As such consultations should be urgently reinitiated with all parties concerned, to iron out the unresolved issues, and properly passed by Sabah State Legislative Assembly for lasting effect. 

Hence, they urged the State Government stop the inspection/enforcement exercise now by JTK under the Emergency Ordinance initiated Act 446, and to begin the process of reviewing the Act with stakeholders including associations and industry players, for the purpose of finalising and implementing it after economy recovers from this Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Businesses and employers will definitely benefit from this temporary breathing space, whilst struggling to stay afloat at this critical juncture,” they said.  

 



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