Probe into collapsed Taman Desa condo finds illegal workers used, not paid overtime wages

Syed Jaymal Zahiid
Construction workers moving out from temporary quarters inside the contraction side in Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur February 15, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 ― The Labour Department has recommended action against the main contractor of a condominium project in Taman Desa where a structure collapsed last week after a preliminary investigation found breaches of employment law.

The investigation report released this evening said construction firm Leow Tuck Chui & Sons Sdn Bhd’s alleged violations included failure to provide workers with safe lodging, pay for overtime work, and employing illegal migrant workers.

Two of the six workers injured during the incident did not have work permits, the department said when adding that the two Bangladeshi nationals also did not have work insurance.

“The findings from our investigation to see if the workers were insured by Perkeso showed their employers did not register them for protection. No information was received,” the report said.

The government ordered immediate investigations into the incident that saw the upper level of the structure collapse last Saturday, trapping two of its workers on the floor below. The duo were rescued and sent to Hospital Kuala Lumpur for treatment.

Residents in the vicinity have been opposing the development since its announcement and some Pakatan Harapan lawmakers have alleged irregularity in the project’s approval under the previous Barisan Nasional administration.

Work on the 37-storey condominium called The Address began at the end of 2017.

A general view of the partially collapsed condominium project in Taman Desa February 14, 2020.

Three hundred foreign workers were hired for the project, the department said when noting that the Human Resources Ministry had approved their permit applications in 2013. In 2018, the Home Affairs Ministry granted permits for 200 additional foreign workers.

The department said 285 were still on the contractor’s payroll.

Six of them were injured by the accident. The department said the other four have the necessary work permits.

For the remaining two, one has a pending work permit application and entered the country on a social visa that has expired. The other did not have any travel documents.

The department said it conducted site inspections and recorded statements from two of the company’s representatives, Asrul Fahmi Jamaluddin and Muhammad Amirul bin Abdul Hamid, the project’s safety supervisors.

“Among violations identified during site inspections was the lodging provided within the construction site did not comply with the Foreign Worker Housing Guidelines provided by the LFD and CIDB (Construction Industry Development Board) for construction,” it said.

The department is also seeking the eight sub-contractors Leow Tuck Chui & Sons Sdn Bhd hired for the project but has so far only identified six based on information provided.

The department said efforts to interview three of these were unsuccessful as officials found their offices “shut and locked”.

“The KL Labour Department team was sent to detect three sub-contractors, Bakti Tiara Sdn Bhd, Ng Kok Wah Building Contractor Sdn Bhd, CML Plumbing Sdn Bhd., but we found their premises shut and locked,” the report said.

The report, addressed to the Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran, has recommended  action be taken under Section 25, Section 60k and 60A of the Works Act 1955.

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