PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) is urging the government to put in place a blueprint to enforce the health ministry’s efforts to contain the Covid-19 outbreak as the construction and manufacturing sectors resume business today.
MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said the congress understood the need to allow these sectors to reopen in order to kickstart the economy and protect the livelihoods of workers, but voiced concern that some employers may not follow the ministry’s SOP.
He also said MTUC had received “disturbing feedback” from workers at companies which had already been given the green light to operate.
He gave the example of workers huddled together in buses and vans provided for transport, and free mingling in cafeterias along with other areas at the workplace.
“Work stations were not realigned to implement safe distancing guidelines,” he said in a statement.
He said MTUC was also concerned over the living conditions of migrant workers who comprise a sizeable portion of the workforce in these sectors.
In the construction sector, he said, workers live in close proximity in “kongsi” or makeshift accommodations on worksites with minimum amenities.
“The same goes for factory workers,” he added. “At times, as many as 10 to 15 workers share small three-room apartments.”
He said these conditions coupled with a lax attitude towards health ministry guidelines risked turning workers’ accommodations into new breeding grounds for Covid-19.
“We need to learn from the Singapore experience and pay due attention to workers’ safety, not just at the workplace but also where they stay.”
He said MTUC feared that SOP such as screening, daily temperature checks, safe distancing and the use of face masks and hand sanitiser would not be followed, and that employers might not have enough trained personnel to enforce them.
“Merely warning employers that their operations will be shuttered if they do not comply is not nearly enough to ensure the SOP is adhered to.”
Solomon said employers should be compelled to provide personal protective equipment for their workers, and to relook their accommodation to ensure that basic hygiene and safe distancing are the rule of thumb there as well.
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