Another glove maker, another terrible accommodation

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KLANG: Another glove manufacturing factory in Selangor has been found to have forced its workers into cramped, window-less quarters and squalid conditions after a multi-agency operation on foreign worker accommodations here.

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Officers from the Department of Labour and Klang City Council (MPK) mounted the operation at the factory in Klang and found workers staying in a warehouse which was partitioned into tiny rooms, each with 12 bunk beds.

A worker told FMT that while only 12 people were supposed to stay in the room, it regularly accommodates up to 18 – making physical distancing all but impossible.

Conditions were even worse at another warehouse a few hundred metres away. This had been converted into a hostel and had an additional storey constructed above ground floor to accommodate more beds.

At the back of the rooms were a line of showers, and a puddle of water a couple of metres from one of the beds had mosquito larvae floating on the surface. Both hostels had no windows and were poorly ventilated.

The short walk between the two makeshift hostels was filled with a huge pile of garbage and factory waste, an environmental hazard made worse by the fact that the dumpsite was just a stone’s throw away from the Klang River.

A company spokesperson tried to defend the accommodations by saying that the workers hardly complained – and that the housing the company provides was “much better” than some of the “horror stories” about other foreign worker housing.

“While it’s obviously not a five-star hotel, I would say everyone has a room, they can shower, they can eat, they can socialise,” he said.

“Is there room for improvement? Certainly. I would say so. Is it really bad? Of course not. You guys (media) saw it just now.

“It’s an airy space. they have a big space to sit down, socialise… There is room for improvement, but at the same time, I don’t hear them complaining so much.”

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Today’s raid comes after a similar operation on another glove manufacturer in Kajang on Monday, which saw the factory being handed a seven-day closure notice by the health ministry for failing to comply with Covid-19 preventive measures.

The company in today’s operation and the one in Kajang are both subsidiaries of a major Malaysian glove manufacturer.

Monday’s raid found 781 workers living behind the factory in two blocks of shipping containers stacked three stories high. The company has since denied that hundreds of its workers were living in conditions described by a minister as “modern slavery”.

The Klang district health office said the factory in today’s raid could risk being handed a seven-day closure notice of its own if its officers found it was not in compliance with the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act.

IIi Syazwani Mohd Mashudi, an environmental health officer at the Klang district health office, said the company had failed to enforce physical distancing in the accommodations and did not disinfect or sanitise them three times a day – or record the cleaning – as required.

Mohd Asri Abdul Wahab, the deputy director general (operational) of the Department of Labour said that the department would investigate whether the company had applied for approval to convert the warehouses into accommodation quarters.

He noted that the officials had to climb a ladder to reach the second floor beds at one of the hostels, which was a safety risk.

Asri also pointed out that under the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act, employers must provide a mattress of at least four inches, a pillow and a blanket. The company had failed to do all three.

He was unable to comment on viral claims on social media that the workers were moved out of the hostel late last night after news of the enforcement raid had been leaked.

Both officials also would not comment on the piles of garbage between the two hostels, with the media then posing the question to the company’s spokesperson.

“Honestly, I’m not really sure how to answer that,” the spokesman said. “It’s not us throwing it. Maybe if we put some cameras there, we can find out who is doing it.” – FMT

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