Business during MCO: MTUC wants govt to ensure employers strictly comply with MOH’s SOP

Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) logo

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KUCHING, April 29: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) is urging the federal government to devise a blueprint to ensure employers strictly comply with the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s standard operating procedure (SOP) in view of approved economic sectors being allowed to operate at full capacity starting today.

MTUC secretary-general J Solomon pointed out that the blueprint was all the more urgent as it will play a vital role in saving the country from another wave of Covid-19 infections as businesses ramp up their operations and the Movement Control Order (MCO) restrictions were relaxed.

“We understand that the government’s decision is prompted by the need to kick-start the economy and protect workers’ livelihood, (but) MTUC is concerned about the implementation of the (new) SOP (to prevent Covid-19 infections at workplace) on the ground, especially in the relevant sectors.

“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. Strict enforcement is key to ensuring that the SOP is complied with, and action taken against recalcitrant employers,” he asserted in a statement today.

Solomon cautioned that failure to implement the SOP or even being lax about them will risk the safety and health of workers and the general population.

Highlighting that MTUC had received ‘disturbing feedback’ from workers in companies which had been given permission to operate during the MCO, he revealed among the issues involved are workers huddled together in buses and vans provided for transport, and free-mingling in cafeterias and other areas at the workplace.

“Workstations were not realigned to implement safe distancing guidelines.

“Apart from these three problematic areas, MTUC is worried about the living conditions of migrant workers, who form a sizeable portion of the workforce in the sectors prioritised by the government such as manufacturing and construction,” he added.

In the construction sector, Solomon observed that workers live in close proximity in “kongsi” or makeshift accommodations on worksites with bare amenities.

“The same goes for factory workers — at times as many as 10 to 15 workers share small three-room apartments.

“Such living conditions and a lax attitude towards the MOH guidelines risk turning these accommodations into new breeding grounds for Covid-19 infections.

“We need to learn from the Singapore experience and must pay due attention to workers’ safety, not just at workplaces but also where they stay,” he emphasised.

He reminded that the MOH guidelines include mandatory Covid-19 screening for workers, daily temperature checks, safe distancing and the use of masks and sanitisers at workplaces along with other more specific measures which need to be adopted by the respective employers, depending on the nature of their business.

“Employers must be compelled to provide the resources in terms of PPEs and personnel to enforce the SOP which will require some basic training as well as awareness campaigns for workers and employers.

“We do not question the need to gradually reopen the economy but insist that the government comes up with an effective blueprint that will give teeth to the MOH’s SOP in ensuring efforts to kick-start businesses are not impeded by any fresh Covid-19 clusters,” he reiterated. — DayakDaily