Bosses cry foul over booster jabs

PETALING JAYA: Employers and business groups have protested against a suggestion that they provide Covid-19 booster jabs to their foreign workers.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said employers should not be forced to bear the additional costs of vaccinating their foreign employees.

Employers, he said, should not be compelled to incur additional costs in hiring foreign workers due to the problems of another company.

“Plans to make booster jabs compulsory for foreign workers just because of the overstocking of Sinovac vaccines are very irresponsible,” he said in a statement yesterday.

These employer groups were concerned after Pharmaniaga Bhd – the sole distributor of the Covid-19 vaccine in Malaysia – lost almost RM216mil or 38% of its market capitalisation in a week after a RM552mil vaccine provision due to slow-moving stocks of the vaccines.

On Saturday, its chief executive officer was reported to have raised the possibility of the vaccines being used as booster shots for foreign workers.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa had said last month that the government is looking at making it compulsory for foreign workers to get booster shots.

However, Dr Syed Hussain called on the government to find other ways to assist pharmaceutical companies and not pass the burden to the private sector, which has done much to assist the nation in the fight against the pandemic.

“MEF is fine if workers in Malaysia are given a vaccine for free, but any additional burden imposed on employers is totally irresponsible,” he added.

SME Association of Malaysia president Ding Hong Sing concurred, saying that even if the booster dose is given for free, extra costs would still be incurred by employers who have to arrange for transport and a day off for the workers.“It is good to offer the booster doses for those who have not got theirs, but it should not be at the expense of employers, which is unfair and unreasonable,” he said.

Small & Medium Enterprises Association (Samenta) chairman Datuk William Ng said “it makes no sense” if the government goes ahead with the plan.

“Costs aside, we cannot continue to treat foreign workers any differently from local workers.

“We have just been asked to adopt a more stringent Employment (Amendment) Act 2022 to align with global labour standards, so it makes no sense to ‘gostan’ (reverse) and have double standards for foreign workers,” he added.

“(This) will again put our exports and economy at risk.”

As for the Federation of Malaysian Business Association deputy secretary-general Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel, he acknowledged the government’s intention to provide protection for these workers.

“But employers must not be forced or charged any extra cost when implementing any rules pertaining to vaccination or booster shots for foreign workers,” he said.

Currently, foreign workers are required to undergo a medical check-up in their home country and be declared medically fit before entering Malaysia.

Within a month of arrival, they have to undergo a medical check-up by the Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency and will be sent back if they fail it.

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