Thursday, 4 December 2008

Plantation families living in sub-standard houses

Published: Thursday December 4, 2008 The Star Malaysia

Plantation families living in sub-standard houses

SUNGAI PETANI: More than 500 families in several rubber and oil palm plantations in Kedah are still living in houses without proper toilet facilities and decent rooms.

State Labour department director Mohd Niar Zakaria said out of 1,608 houses found in 97 plantations in Kedah, 585 units were of sub-standard quality.

He said records show that 585 families were still living in one-room houses with toilets placed outside the house and with wall partitions between rooms not raised up until the ceiling.

“We have notified the relevant managements recently and are giving them three months from now to rectify the problem,” he said, adding that his department would take legal action if they failed to address the problem.

He said according to the Workers Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990, the houses should have at least two rooms, wall partitions between rooms reaching up to the ceiling and built-in toilets.

The offence carries a fine of up to RM2,000, if convicted and RM100 daily should the management continue to commit the offence, he said after chairing a dialogue session with representatives from 100 estates -- 97 from Kedah and three from Perlis -- here on Thursday.

Plantation managers and representatives from relevant government agencies, Malaysian Agricultural Produce Association (MAPA) and National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW) also attended the dialogue jointly organised by State Labour department and Kedah Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH).

Kedah/ Perlis NUPW secretary I. Santhanadass said it was only after the Labour Department took legal action recently against four estates in Kedah for offences relating to workers welfare that other estates had started paying attention to providing basic amenities to their workers.

“We are living in modern times but we can still find people in the estates and plantations living without proper sanitary and water facilities.
“The Labour department should continue to take stern action against estate management which neglect the welfare of their workers,” he said.