Shoddy living conditions for contract workers


More evidence that workers, especially contract workers, are being shoddily treated. Workers in Tanjung Bunga who appear to be laying cables are living in deplorable conditions.

Low-wage contract workers, who are more easily exploited, are increasingly replacing regular local workers.

Thanks to Wong Yee Lin and Rosalind Chua for sending in the following report from Tanjung Bunga:

Modern day slavery in Malaysia

Our regulatory authorities have been calling for more transparency, accountability and good corporate governance from companies within Malaysia. Following suit, Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad called upon public listed companies to include in their annual report a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) statement disclosing their activities or practices undertaken.

We ask, what is CSR?

From Wikipedia :

Corporate social responsibility (CSR, also called corporate conscience, corporate citizenship, social performance, or sustainable responsible business/ Responsible Business)[1] is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. CSR policy functions as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby businesses monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards, and international norms. The goal of CSR is to embrace responsibility for the company’s actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere.

CSR is titled to aid an organization’s mission as well as a guide to what the company stands for and will uphold to its consumers. Development business ethics is one of the forms of applied ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that can arise in a business environment. ISO 26000 is the recognized international standard for CSR. Public sector organizations (the United Nations for example) adhere to the triple bottom line (TBL). It is widely accepted that CSR adheres to similar principles but with no formal act of legislation. The UN has developed the Principles for Responsible Investment as guidelines for investing entities.

Have the pillars of Malaysia’s corporate society been responsible?

In a quiet, affluent leafy Tanjung Bunga suburb in Penang, walkers and joggers begin their exercise routines before getting ready for the day. Round and round they go past mansions, plugged into their iPods, clocking up the kilometres, oblivious to the cacophony of barking guard dogs. Today something is different. There’s the smell of food in the morning air.

New neighbours have moved in and they’re squatting by the drain cooking breakfast over a small gas stove.

A large tarpaulin tent has been pitched on a grassy verge by the side of the road and for now, it is home to four foreign workers. Every morning one worker cooks breakfast for his friends and then they walk five minutes down the road to begin work.

At the end of the working day which can be as late as 9.00pm, the workers return to the tent to cook and wash. There is no running water or ‘portaloo’ and the drain functions as an open toilet. Laundry is strung up to dry between trees.

What possible work must these foreign workers be doing that they have to pitch tents along the way?

Who has employed these foreign workers and subjects them to such basic, unsanitary conditions?

From the looks of it, they could be workers hired by a subcontractor responsible for laying or fortifying telecommunications cables for a GLC (not Telekom). The following is a sign near the “settlement”:

The corporate names have been blacked out as we are unable to verify if the workers belong to these companies

And they must be doing it in record time too if the encampment of the foreign workers employed by the subcontractors is anything to go by. It sure must be at record speed as there is no proper housing for these foreign workers. The contractors or the corporation responsible surely must be saving time and costs that would otherwise have been spent in transporting these workers from decent accommodation to the worksite.

Who benefits from the cables being laid? It will be us Malaysians who are the end users of the cables. We are the ones condoning this poor corporate behaviour. We are the ones who see the abuse of basic human rights and go home cheerily without batting an eyelid.

Last year, Indonesia and Cambodia stopped sending domestic workers to Malaysia, thanks to our shocking record of maid abuse. Consider the living conditions of the foreign workers in the tents; it’s an affront to human dignity and basic human rights to stick workers in makeshift tents by the road and expect them to crap in the drain. It seems that the attitudes towards foreign workers prevalent in Malaysian households are replicated by corporate society and vice versa.

The time has come for the pillars of corporate society to take the lead and show Malaysia and Malaysians the way. There is definitely a better way that ensures profits can be made but ethically and in a way that allows workers their dignity.

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We had the same situation in the Fettes Park area (along Lebuhraya Halia). There were a couple of tents set up by the road side to house the foreign workers who were hired to lay cables in our area. There were complaints from the residents and so the contractor moved the workers elsewhere. With all the big bucks that are allocated for such projects, there is no reason why these workers can’t be given proper lodging.



Gerakan K, sebenarnya semua harga tinggi bukannya kerana gaji pekerja, sama ada mereka asing ataupun tempatan. Harga barang tinggi kerana majikan dan tauke besar mahukan keuntungan yang tinggi dan keterlaluan. Contohnya, Penang Bridge, PLUS, dan semua IPP.

Sekiranya semua gaji pekerja dinaikkan 2 kali ganda, mereka tetap akan merekod keuntungan. Cuma (ada pihak yang) tamak, mementingkan kekayaan sendiri sahaja dan ingin mencuri wang rakyat sepanjang masa. Tambah lagi, kerajaan skrg memberikan ruang yang cukup untuk majikan-majikan (tertentu) menipu rakyat dan pekerja.

Gerakan K

Listen to me Anil, you are bookwise + GILA !!! Ya betul, anil = gila. Mengapa ??? Saya bagi contoh. Anil dan machai-machai pekik: “Kita mau MURAH MURAH MURAH !!!. Rumah mau murah, telefon mau murah, makanan mau murah !!! Transport mau murah !!! Kemudian bos-bos perniagaan tersebut kata: OK, boleh murah. Kita pakai perkerja-perkerja asing kerana gaji/kos murah, jadi produk mereka akan jadi lebih murah. Kemudian, anil dan machai-machai juga jerit: Hoi !!! Kenapa gaji perkerja-perkerja asing rendah sangat ??? Kita mau bos-bos naik gaji. Kita mau gaji minima !!! Tahu tak apa anil dan machai-machai mereka sekarang buat… Read more »

Andrew I

Penang free wifi, skype and whatsapp. How come someone as tech savvy as you didn’t mention all these free things?

Gherkin K = Mr. Gamer 2012.