PETALING JAYA: Unions say workers are ready to return if more economic sectors gradually reopen, provided that the herd immunity among workers has been achieved and tight standard operating procedures are practised at workplaces.
Malaysian Trades Union Congress deputy president Mohd Effendy Abdul Ghani said as workers wanted to keep their jobs, there was the worry that some employers might not follow the SOP once given the green light to operate.
“The government has announced the National Recovery Plan, which is to partially open once the number of cases has gone down. We want industries to reopen but what we want more is for the government to completely focus and intensify the vaccination of workers from all sectors.
“For now, the Public-Private Partnership Covid-19 Industry Immunisation Programme (Pikas) only targets the essential sectors; we want all non-essential sectors, too, to start getting their workers vaccinated, ” he said.
“We also want the government to start a proper channel whereby those companies which have their workers fully vaccinated be evaluated properly before they are allowed to operate. There will be employers who put profit before the health of their workers and workers are now caught in a dilemma, ” Mohd Effendy added.
“Do we return to work and risk our lives or do we keep our livelihoods?”
National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers general secretary N. Gopal Kishnam said more employers might intensify the vaccination of their workers if there was hope the government would open up more industries.
“It’s always good to allow more in the manufacturing sector to open. With Pikas, many of these employees have been vaccinated or waiting for their turn, ” said Gopal.
Union Network International-Malaysia Labour Centre president Datuk Mohamed Shafie BP Mammal said that before more industries are allowed to operate, the authorities need to get their act together first.
“The cases may have gone down but it is now the ‘honeymoon period’ of the virus as it can always shoot up if we are not careful.
“We workers end up confused with the myriad of varied messaging from different ministries in charge.
“While the Health Ministry tells us to stay home completely, we are told we can go to work if we are in essential sectors, only to be stopped at roadblocks and then there are the industry players who tell us we must go to work if we want to keep our jobs, ” said Mohamed Shafie.
He said “essential sectors” was also a term that varied from ministry to ministry.
“We also ask that workers who have been swabbed not be allowed to return to work before their results as this is one way of stopping a workplace cluster from happening, ” he added.
Timber Employees Union general secretary Nor Azlan Yaacob said the workers’ well-being should be prioritised above all things.
He said all workers must be vaccinated before allowing more industries to open.
“The rate of possible infection at workplaces is high and the workers who tend to be exposed must be vaccinated.
“Speed up the vaccination of workers, so that more sectors can be opened, ” said Nor Azlan.