MTUC urges employers and trade unions to collaborate in facing Covid-19

Medicine and healthcare. — file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

KUCHING, Feb 13: Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general J.Solomon calls on employers and trade unions to cooperate in addressing the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19).

According to Solomon in a press statement, this virus is having a major impact on travel and tourism in Malaysia and elsewhere, and the spillover effect is felt on other industries and the economy as a whole.

Thus, in order to avoid any trust deficit, employers should ensure that workers are not shortchanged in the process by using Covid-19 as an excuse.

“There is an urgent need for both parties to find an amicable solution to problems arising due to the impact of Covid-19.

“Arising from this, there must be frequent engagement between employers and trade unions to ensure that this disease and the resulting fear is contained,” he opined.

He added that through close engagement, both parties will not harbour any suspicious thoughts on actions taken at the workplace.

He noted that this includes any action to quarantine, if necessary, which should not be seen as discriminatory but as a health initiative.

“Employers should consider whether to limit business travel to affected areas at this time and provide reasonable accommodations such as video conferencing during the duration of the threat and heightened risk.

“Under Section 15 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1994, it is the duty of employers to provide a workplace for workers, which is free from recognised hazards, a workplace which is safe and without risks to health, among others,” he said.

Solomon also pointed that employers should continue to monitor the development of Covid-19 and analyse whether employees could be at actual risk of exposure.

He said employers should take some basic steps to help prevent the spread of disease and keep employees healthy such as educating employees on the signs and symptoms of the coronavirus and the precautions that can be taken to minimise the risk of contracting the virus and implementing and/or evaluating workplace emergency response protocols.

“Airlines and tour agencies should be lenient to those who have bought tickets and organised trips, by allowing for postponement of their travel, instead of canceling the tickets and not offering any refund.

“Banks, too, should allow for rescheduling of loans and installment payments to soften the impact on those affected by the virus. They can offer much needed relief to those affected by taking a sympathetic, yet proactive, stance,” he said.

Among the listed actions for cooperation between employer and trade unions were employers should reinforce sick leave policies and encourage employees to stay home if they are feeling ill to the extent feasible, employers to look at flexibility at work, employers to call for emergency meetings with trade unions when situations demand such, discuss ways and means to handle this epidemic, and employers should not make arbitrary decisions.

To minimise disharmony during this period, employers should also ensure that employees are not refusing to interact with colleagues or customers because of their ethnicity as such behavior could lead to complaints about discrimination, Solomon added.

“All policies should be enforced in a uniform and consistent way. Employers at this time are advised not to send employees to China, or any other location affected by the virus, unless absolutely necessary, employers with employee travel to affected areas, if necessary, should take steps that are appropriate considering all circumstances and updates issued by the Ministry of Health.” — DayakDaily