Don’t neglect ‘invisible’ frontline workers during pandemic

Sketch: Wong Soak Koon/Aliran

The Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress calls upon the government to abolish the prevailing contractor of labour system as it is a blatant infringement of fundamental workers’ rights.

While the sacrifices of the formal frontline medical personnel involved in the coronavirus pandemic have been given due recognition, a substantial group of workers have been neglected by the authorities.

The Ministry Of Health continues to engage thousands of workers as cleaners and security guards on an outsourcing contract system. By virtue of this outsourcing system of service, these workers have not not given due recognition for their unwavering sacrifices in the battle against the pandemic.

Penang MTUC understands that these workers are assigned cleaning jobs even in Covid-19 wards but are not entitled to incentives paid to government employees. Such discrimination, in our view, is a gross injustice that ought to be remedied by the Ministry Of Health immediately.

The MTUC has always opposed the system of contractors of labour for the simple reason that it is repugnant, obnoxious and contrary to internationally accepted labour standards. Such a toxic system is akin to modern-day slavery where workers’ rights are abused, with impunity, by labour contractors.

The only redemption, in this equation, is for the government to eradicate the practice of outsourcing essential jobs such as cleaners and security guards to contractors of labour. As the job scope for such is permanent by nature, there can be no justification for the government to outsource such jobs.

Penang MTUC, therefore, calls upon the government to abolish the prevailing contractor of labour system – not only in the government service but also in the private sector – as it is a blatant infringement of fundamental workers’ rights.

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

Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.