Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Death Of Yam Narayan Chaudhary And The Underlying Issues(MTUC-Penang Press Statement)

Below is the Malaysian Trade Union Congress(Penang Division) media statement on the death of Top Glove worker, Yam Narayan Chaudhary, who maybe the first victim of Covid-19 contracted at the workplace.
Malaysia still do not have workplace regulations that stipulate what employers and workplace owners/operators need to do keep workers safe from Covid-19 infections at the workplace. If laws and regulations are not complied with, it is an offence and the law-breaker can be charged in court.
On the other hand Standard Operating Procedures and Guidelines are nothing but mere recommendation or advice, and non-compliance does not lead to prosecution. What we need are laws/regulations/etc , which  are legally enforceable.
Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994(OSHA) is the Malaysian law that imposes obligations on employers to keep their workers safe...and this includes also from occupational diseases. Sadly, in this law, there is no definition of what is 'occupational disease', let alone a list of occupational disease where Covid-19 now ought to be in that list.  Many have raised this point...but the Malaysian government has failed to remedy this flaw.
A simple amendment would have solved the problem - adding the definition of 'occupational diseases' in this Act.
Press Release By The Malaysian Trades Union Congress, Penang Division - The Death Of Yam Narayan Chaudhary And The Underlying Issues.

Yam Narayan Chaudhary, in our view, is a victim of the unacceptable working conditions under which migrant workers toil to eke out a living. Prolonged hours of work, coupled with a neglect of decent living conditions, thus, exposing migrant workers not only to infection of the  Covid-19 virus but other communicable infections, probably, has to be the underlying factor for his death.

He was employed as a security guard in Top Glove. It has been reported that, due to the absence of thermal scanners, security guards, like the late Yam Narayan Chaudhary, had their work load increased. Without speculating, as to why the lack of thermal scanners, we are inclined to conclude that the company had neglected it's duty of care in the matter. 

Having registered the single largest Covid-19 cluster, the Teratai cluster that has been attributed to cramped dormitories, it would have been expected of the  company to implement all reasonable precautionary measures to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Sadly, that seems to be the down side in the circumstances.

According to the Director-General of the Ministry Of Health, Yam Narayan Chaudhary, was brought to the hospital with category 4-5  condition described as pneumonia with lung fibrosis. On this issue what needs to be addressed is why such an inordinate delay in  sending him for medical attention? It is our view that the company has to be held accountable on the issue as they are vicariously liable in the matter. 

It may well be argued that the death, of Yam Narayan Chaudhary, is an isolated case but to us it is a wake-up call for all employers. Employers, so much as they are in pursuit of enhancing out-put, cannot abrogate their responsibilities in providing a safe system of work. And, by extension, conducive living conditions as dictated by internationally accepted standards and the Workers' Minimum Standards Of Housing And Amenities Act, 1990. 

Migrant workers' activist, trade unions and concerned civil society organisations have been advocating for fair wages, safe working conditions and decent housing of workers, even before the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. That legitimate demands were never heeded by the government or the employers. On the contrary such advocates were tagged as "trouble makers"! Having regards to the prevailing state of affairs such advocacy was never misplaced! 

It is, thus, our demand that both the government and employers discard the primitive notion that workers are a mere component of the means of production. It is also our contention that workers should not be "dehumanised" on account of maximising profits unless both the government, and employers, elect to stand accused of being modern day slave masters!

To the family of Yam Narayan Chaudhary MTUC Penang Division extends our heartfelt condolences. May his soul rest in peace in the arms of God almighty.

K. Veeriah 
MTUC Penang Division
016 4184520

A Company Made P.P.E. for the World. Now Its Workers Have the Virus.

Top Glove, the world’s largest rubber glove maker, has enjoyed record profits in the pandemic, even as thousands of its low-paid workers in Malaysia suffer from a large outbreak of Covid-19.

Credit...The New York Times

BANGKOK — Day after day, as the pandemic gathered force, Yam Narayan Chaudhary stood sentry for 13.5-hour shifts at Top Glove, the Malaysian company that is the world’s largest disposable glove maker. Thousands of foreign workers, many from Nepal like Mr. Chaudhary, lined up as he checked their temperatures and waved them through to the factory.

Top Glove, which controls roughly a quarter of the global rubber glove market, was operating in overdrive, part of a frenzied effort to supply the world with protective equipment for the coronavirus. But as the company shipped gloves all over the world and enjoyed record profits, its low-paid workers in Malaysia began to suffer from a ferocious outbreak of Covid-19, the result of its own inadequate protections, critics say.

In interviews with The New York Times, five current and former Top Glove employees described working with masks soaked in sweat, sweltering in crowded hostels, taking Covid tests for which they were never given results and enduring week after week of overtime shifts that may have left them more vulnerable to the disease.

On Dec. 12, Mr. Chaudhary, 29, died of Covid-19 complications at a hospital in the Malaysian state of Selangor. His friends said he had to wait three days to be admitted to the hospital, even as his breathing deteriorated. The workers say the decision to check into a hospital depends on Top Glove management.

Continue reading the main story

“Our whole family was very much shocked when we heard my brother is no more,” said Bhabindra Chaudhary, who lives in a village in western Nepal where his family are subsistence farmers. “We feel it’s Top Glove’s failure that they are not able to protect their workers.”

Credit...via Facebook

Manufacturers in Malaysia have provided essential products during the pandemic, supplying about 60 percent of the world’s disposable gloves. But these companies’ reliance on low-paid migrants laboring without proper protection means that the virus’s victims often come from their own ranks.

About 5,700 of Top Glove’s 11,215 employees in just one of its manufacturing complexes in Malaysia have tested positive for the coronavirus since November, making that cluster of factories the largest active Covid hot spot in Malaysia, according to Ministry of Health statistics.

The outbreak came even as workers and labor activists had warned for months that social distancing rules were not being followed. One whistle-blower said he was recently fired from Top Glove, creating a culture of fear in which few foreign workers dare come forward lest they share the same fate.Continue reading the main story

“Some challenges arise due to the surge of global demands on gloves considering the pandemic,” Top Glove said in a statement to The Times. “We have mitigation plans to address the challenges to ensure our employees can work in a safe working environment to deliver the lifesaving gloves to those who need it the most.”

The company said that more than 10,000 employees had been tested as of Dec. 16, and that 93 percent of those who had contracted the virus had recovered. Top Glove would not say how many of its workers had tested positive.

Across the world, frontline workers such as meatpackers or farmers are often particularly exposed to Covid-19, even as they are subjected to long hours and paltry compensation.

Credit...The New York Times

In Singapore, which neighbors Malaysia, almost half of the city-state’s low-wage migrant workers living in high-density dormitories have been infected with the coronavirus, the government announced last week. While there have been few deaths from the virus in Singapore, nearly 153,000 foreign laborers contracted it, compared with fewer than 4,000 cases in the rest of the population, an indicator of how quickly the disease spreads in crowded quarters.

Coronavirus Briefing: An informed guide to the global outbreak, with the latest developments and expert advice.

Touring Top Glove hostels last month, M. Saravanan, Malaysia’s minister of human resources, called the living conditions “terrible.”

“This is a matter of life and death of vulnerable workers,” he said.

This month, the Malaysian Labor Department opened 19 investigations to determine whether Top Glove had violated labor standards in five states. The Labor Department says it expects to file charges soon, and Top Glove was ordered to suspend operations in some of its factories for two weeks.

Continue reading the main story

At Top Glove and other disposable glove makers in Malaysia, workers say their employers regularly ignore social distancing and other pandemic strictures even as these companies grow richer amid a production boom. From September to November, Top Glove’s net profits rose more than 20 times compared with the same period last year. - New York Times, 20/12/2020

see earlier post:

Top Glove worker who died ‘came to hospital too late’? Whose fault? Employer? Government?

***Note we are merely sharing MTUC-Penang's statement, and it does not mean we agree with its contents and/or positions taken

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