Malaysian construction workers demand better conditions

The Malaysian Liaison Council of the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), the global union federation for workers in the construction industry, have expressed their deep concern at yet another tragic fatal accident in the Malaysian construction industry today. The accident occurred when a bridge connecting SP Setia’s Eco City project to The Gardens Mall in Mid Valley collapsed. 

“Our deepest condolences go out to the family of the Vietnamese worker who has lost his life, as well as to the nine other workers that have been badly injured”, said Apolinar Tolentino, BWI’s Asia-Pacific Regional Representative. 

“We have seen time and time again that there is a fundamental disconnect between conditions of work and occupational safety and health. It is no surprise that all of the injured workers are migrants, either from Sabah, Vietnam or Sabah; in our experience exploitation of migrant labour is a key driver of these accidents”, said Tolentino.

“A recent survey that BWI undertook of migrant workers revealed that around 80% of migrant workers are working more than ten hours a day. Less than a fifth of those surveyed were working six days a week, while the rest regularly worked seven days a week”, said Tolentino. “Most workers are paid little more than the minimum wage, remitting most of this salary back to their family abroad.” 

“Under these conditions of extreme fatigue and commercial pressure, ensuring a safe working environment is almost impossible”, said Tolentino. “This is not an isolated incident, and until the construction industry seriously considers the conditions of construction workers then we can expect more and more of these accidents.” 

“We demand an immediate and thorough inquiry into this horrific accident, that includes the involvement of BWI’s Malaysian affiliates and considers the broader conditions of employment within its scope,” said Tolentino. 

“There looks to be no end in sight to the Malaysian construction boom. Unless we address the abject working conditions of the hundreds of thousands migrant workers in the construction sector then we will continue to see more tragic accidents like this one.”