Mobilise more resources to support frontline health workers

The government should also reform labour laws and protect civil servants' right to collective bargaining

132 views
WONG SOAK KOON/ALIRAN

The Labour Law Reform Coalition is appalled to learn that many healthcare workers were exhausted at the front line without sufficient staff and equipment. Some doctors even tendered resignations and left the battleground during this health crisis.

While we applaud various civil society initiatives to donate funds and equipment to Covid-19 hospitals, we believe the government has not yet mobilised the necessary resources to back up the healthcare workers to alleviate the enormous pressures on their shoulders.

Article 4 of the Emergency Ordinance, gazetted on 14 January 2021, clearly stated the Agong may demand any resources to be used for any purpose deemed necessary, including human resources, facilities and utilities. The government should fully use this provision to mobilise the whole society’s resources (mengerah tenaga seluruh masyarakat) to fight this battle, which has taken the lives of 7,902 Malaysians.

Healthcare workers from private hospitals and general panels, retired doctors and nurses, and medical and nursing students at universities and colleges, should be mobilised to support the fight.

Manufacturing facilities that have the capacity to produce oxygen, ventilators, personal protective equipment and patient beds should be temporarily acquired to produce the necessary equipment.

Unemployed workers should be hired to provide administrative support for vaccination drives.

[All this can be done] as long as the compensations are provided in accordance with the ordinance.

The government should also not hesitate to contact the international community, including the World Health Organization (WHO) to request necessary support.

When the healthcare workers were forced to voice out their despair anonymously through civil society platforms, it shows a serious breakdown of internal channels in solving the problems facing frontline health workers. The gag order and strict disciplinary action does not help to address the real issue.

READ MORE:  V David - unsung hero in trade unionism and politics

Healthcare workers, just like other workers, need an appropriate instrument to discuss their rights, benefits, safety and health on an equal footing. The government has been denying all civil servants, including healthcare workers, their right to collective bargaining. This is why our healthcare workers resorted to speaking anonymously to prevent retaliation.

As the employer for the hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers, the government must appreciate trade unions’ role as social partners to raise any matter of concerns through an open negotiation process, which is a meaningful avenue to protect workers’ rights and wellbeing during the Covid pandemic.

Given that the Malaysian government has ratified ILO Convention 98 on Collective Bargaining, the government should reform labour laws and protect civil servants’ right to collective bargaining, so that unions in the healthcare sector can hold social dialogues with the health minister from time to time to address their concerns.

N Gopal Kishnam and Irene Xavier are co-chairpersons of the Labour Law Reform Coalition

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.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments