Movement control: Review exemptions given to various manufacturers

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The Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress understands that the Ministry Of International Trade And Industry (Miti) has granted exemption to various manufacturing companies to recommence operation with conditions attached.

We have taken sight of at least two such documents and wish to highlight the conditions, spelled out in para 2(ii) of Miti’s letter, when approving such applications.

Para 2(ii) reads as follows:

Syarikat dikehendaki untuk memenuhi permintaan dan keperluan produk keluaran atau perkhidmatan bagi pasaran tempatan sepenuhnya.

In our view an objective interpretation of the provisions, simplified, ought to mean that the company’s product or service is to fulfil or meet the needs of the domestic market only.

In spite of such a condition, we have been notified that there are companies whose products are either completely for export or a small percentage for the domestic market – we are told that in one case a tiny 2-3% local market sales – that have also been granted approval to commence operations.

We are, therefore, baffled at the prevailing state of affairs as a pertinent question that surfaces is whether Miti undertook a due diligence check before granting approval to such companies.

Also deserving an answer is whether Miti would strictly enforce the terms of item 2(ii) of its preconditions if a company is found to have breached the conditions and whether the approval so granted to it would be withdrawn.

The public also needs to know if appropriate legal action would also be instituted against such employers.

Though we are privy to the above matters in unionised companies, it is our opinion that the breach of item 2(ii) of Miti’s conditions of approval, if it was consistent in the approval of applications from other sectors, may well have been flouted by companies across the board.

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Under such circumstances, we are compelled to voice our utmost concerns in the matter especially when the underlying objective of the movement control order was to keep people indoors, in quarantine and to uphold social distancing, etc amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Contrary to the scheme, Miti’s approval to companies to restart the operations has invariably exposed thousands of workers to the perils of the coronavirus.

As an example, it is estimated that rubber-glove manufacturers employ some 70,000 workers. And this sector has been granted permission to continue operations using 50% of the workforce, which works out to about 35,000 workers not only commuting to and from work but spending a minimum of eight hours confined in a work process where social distancing can be compromised.

The same will also be true in industries, such as electrical-electronics, where an assembly line of work is the preferred production system. The same circumstances may well exist in the services sector and other areas.

Given such concerns we would implore Miti to review all approvals granted to all sectors to ensure that only those that stringently confirm to the terms of approval are permitted to continue operations. As for those that have infringed item 2(ii) of Miti’s condition of approval, we say throw the book at them!

K Veeriah is secretary of the Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress

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