GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Malayan Trade Union Congress (MTUC) has called on the authorities to inspect all major construction sites here to determine claims by certain quarters that some sites may be harbouring illegal squatter colonies.
Following the deadly landslide in Bukit Kukus, off Paya Terubong last month where nine foreign workers were buried alive, the contractor of the affected site, had declared that the victims were not their workers.
It has given rise to suspicions that the area which had housed 13 box containers, was actually a venue to harbour illegal construction workers, especially since it was hidden away from public view well within the dense Bukit Kukus hilly area.
Penang MTUC secretary K. Veeriah told theSun that the authorities need to probe the matter from not just the standpoint of work safety or whether local council guidelines were observed, but to the the question raised over who were the victims working for, if the contractor has claimed ignorance here.
Also, Veeriah said that the site contractor needs to be responsible even though they had claimed that the workers were not part of their original work force.
“They allowed trespassing to occur here.”
Chats with some foreign workers here had revealed that the living quarters of construction workers which tend to resemble a “kongsi” settings, were at times also accommodation for alien workers, who were on transit.
Such workers are extremely mobile and work from site to site to escape detection, as they are undocumented workers.
The landslide incident has triggered a wave of up to four forms of investigations on the project site as well as on the developer and the contractors.
The four investigations are conducted by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) on work site safety, the police on criminal negligence, the immigration department on work permits and a special state investigate penal headed by Deputy Chief Minister (I) Datuk Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman.
A government official said that an initial report had indicated that the foreign construction workers were part of a squatter settlement in the area.
But it was later revised after they were found to be located within the construction site of an elevated highway which was supposed to link Bandar Baru Air Itam with Bukit Jambul.
To this, Veeriah said that MTUC stance has always been consistent, which is the authorities can rely on foreign labour to arrest the acute shortage of workers in the dangerous, dirty demeaning (3D) occupations.
“But the workers must be documented and not illegals. We defeat the purpose of hiring foreign labour when they are illegals as the latter may end up being exploited,” Veeriah said.