Unionists welcome vaccination drive

PETALING JAYA: The International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) met trade union representatives to brief them on the Program Imunisasi Industri Covid-19 Kerjasama Awam-Swasta (Pikas), which kicks off nationwide today.

The one-hour meeting between Senior Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, top Miti officers and 20 unionists from some of the biggest trade unions in the country was arranged to address concerns over Pikas.

The unionists said it was the first time Miti has met unionists on any issue.

Pikas, which involves voluntary immunisation for employees in the manufacturing sector, will be launched today by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at Texas Instruments in Selangor under phase four of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.

The vaccines are free but employers would have to pay RM90 per worker for the service administered on site or at vaccination centres.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) deputy president Mohd Effendy Abdul Ghani said the meeting was very timely as millions of workers nationwide eagerly await their vaccinations.

“The vaccines are free and employers offered to pay for the service to administer the vaccines.

“We raised our concerns that the cost may be passed on to the workers but Miti gave us its word that we can direct complaints to them and action will be taken on such employers.

“As the current Pikas offer is limited to those with a minimum of 1, 000 workers, it is heartening to hear that should smaller companies band together, Miti will assist to let them take up the offer too, ” said Effendy.

MTUC, which has 300 unions under its umbrella and the biggest trade union group, was represented by 10 union members during the virtual meeting.

National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers general secretary N. Gopal Kishnam said the unions were informed that Pikas was conducted as a proactive method rather than by force.

‘’The minister gave his assurance that no one would be exempted, including foreign workers.

“The approach has to be proactive. We were also informed that more vaccination centres will be opened soon, ” said Gopal.

Union Network International-Malaysia Labour Centre (Uni-MLC) president Datuk Mohamed Shafie BP Mammal said he was pleasantly surprised that Miti sought the views of unions.

“I raised the issue of all workers to be vaccinated, even migrants without documents as they too contribute to the economy.

‘’The minister was open to criticisms and suggestions especially on the coordination matters, ” said Shafie.

Uni-MLC currently has 500, 000 members from 102 unions nationwide.

“Now, we hope Pikas will go as planned and Miti keeps the channel to workers open for our feedback.

“We hope all employers will give their full cooperation under Pikas. We also hope to see a smooth operation, ” said Shafie.

On Monday, Azmin said the authorities would ensure employers do not make workers absorb the vaccination costs under Pikas.

He said vaccines were free but industries have agreed to absorb the cost of the facility to accelerate the programme.

Pikas’ offer to essential industries comes with strict guidelines to employers that all costs must be borne by them and must not in any way be passed on to their workers.

Under Pikas, companies taking part could get their workers vaccinated at selected centres or choose on-site vaccination at designated factories and industrial locations.

Companies in critical manufacturing sub-sectors including electrical and electronics, food processing, iron and steel, medical devices, personal protective equipment, oil and gas and rubber products, including medical glove manufacturing sub-sectors, would be prioritised.

Miti would focus on coordinating the immunisation for employees in the manufacturing sector while other ministries coordinate other sectors under its purview.

To date, Miti said more than 500 companies with about 106, 591 workers had applied to take part in Pikas.

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