KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has called for the urgent establishment of national action committee to contain Covid-19.
Congress secretary-general J. Solomon said the new Government took office at a time when the health risks and economic fallout from Covid-19 pandemic was increasingly affecting the livelihood of Malaysia’s 15 million workers.
Now that the WHO has declared Covid-19 as a global pandemic, it means the situation was very serious and immediate action should be taken to reflect the seriousness of the pandemic impact on Malaysia.
“MTUC respectfully calls on the new Government to urgently set up a Covid-19 Emergency Action Committee (EAC) as a top priority to collectively address this life-threatening issue on workers health and livelihood. EAC should comprise of the relevant stakeholders such as MTUC to address the health and economic issues pertaining to Covid-19.
“The EAC’s main task will be to issue guidelines that can be collectively carried out through the various ministries to contain the spread of Covid-19 at workplaces. The EAC will also enable stakeholders to provide the government with functional proposals for a new economic stimulus package as clearly the RM20 billion package announced last month is not adequate nor sustainable. especially in providing a safety net for workers, particularly from the B40 and M40 group,” he said in a statement here today.
Solomon said a new bigger package was clearly needed and the EAC proposals could ensure that it will provide more comprehensive assistance to the affected economic sectors and the workers.
He said the new stimulus package must ensure that the needs of workers were heard and acted upon by the new government.
Solomon said MTUC was also worried that companies such as Malaysia Airlines(MAS) and Malindo Air were urging their workers to go on no pay leave as countries across the globe impose wide ranging travel restrictions.
“Such measures are unfair on these workers and the government must intervene immediately to check workers from becoming victims of such drastic measures,” he said.
He said that all employers, including MAS and Malindo, would have made financial provisions for such disasters and therefore should only be given access to the stimulus package on condition they have imposed austerity measures involving unnecessary expenses and do not impose unpaid leave or loss of pay on workers.
“Employers must prove their inability to sustain and pay salaries to the EAC; only then, the stimulus package should be provided to affected employers,” he said.
Besides the aviation and tourism sectors, the Covid-19 pandemic has also crippled international trade and rocked markets, both in Malaysia and globally, with stock prices and bond yields plunging. These were clear indications of the economy worsening in the coming weeks, leaving workers in further dire straits, said Solomon.
“As such the government must come up with the new stimulus package without delay to ensure that workers, especially those with meagre salaries, get the protection and financial assistance they need.
“The new stimulus package must not cater solely to facilitate the cash flow of selected businesses, but also ensure that employees of these companies benefit directly from the government’s assistance,” he said..
He said that ignoring the plight of workers during this difficult period brought about by Covid-19, coupled with the prevailing fragile political situation, may lead to unnecessary industrial restlessness, and trigger more challenges to the frayed economy.
“The situation must be contained fast and effectively,” Solomon said.
Many workers were prone to exposure, especially the medical staff and those in the service industry as they had to meet clients and customers regularly, he said.
Therefore preventive measures such as increasing sanitisation services to ensure cleanliness at workplace and the use of face masks and sanitisers were necessary.
“As such, the EAC should be tasked to propose and ensure full implementation of clear mandatory precautionary and preventive guidelines for Malaysians during this period such as food intake, outdoor activities, travel within the countries, prohibition of mass gatherings, ensure availability of masks and hand sanitisers, curtail the escalating cost of these items as well as the cost of sanitisation and implement effective reporting mechanisms.
“The EAC should be tasked to come up with a single standard manual of guidelines which will entail all of the government’s precautionary measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at home, public and work places. This comprehensive manual should be the main reference document for all Malaysians in dealing with the pandemic,” he said.
He said the EAC will be the best forum to assist the government to deal speedily with issues that arise from the pandemic and draw up coordinated prompt action plans for execution.
Otherwise he feels that Malaysians would be burdened with differing ministerial guidelines that would complicate matters and confuse the nation.
Solomon also said the MTUC would propose the following to be incorporated in the new stimulus package to ensure the welfare and livelihood of workers in cushioning the impact of Covid-19:
- Banks to defer housing loan, study loan and vehicle loan installments without imposing any penalties to all B40 and M40 for at least six months;
- All welfare recipients including SOCSO must be given a one-off payment of RM500;
- All pensioners within the B40 and M40 are also given a one-off payment of RM500; and
- All workers earning salaries below RM4,000 to be given RM1000 as one off.
Solomon said the one-off payments would greatly help the recipients with their cash flow and in managing their household expenses.
Such payments would give them more disposable cash which in turn would help stimulate the economy, he said.