Thursday, April 02, 2020

Make COVID-19 an Occupational Disease under Law to ensure social protection for all workers and their families (51 Groups)

Media Statement – 2/4/2020

Make COVID-19 an Occupational Disease under Law to ensure social protection for all workers and their families

We, the 51 undersigned groups, organizations and trade unions, in response to the advent of Covid-19, an infectious disease that can easily be transmitted to other human persons, including workers, urge that the Malaysian government immediately recognize and make Covid-19 an occupational disease. 

By so doing, workers who are infected by Covid-19 at their workplace, even during this period, will become entitled to social protection accorded by social security schemes and laws.

For those who die, by reason of getting infected by Covid-19 at the workplace, will also be easily entitled to compensations, and their spouses/children/elderly parents will also become entitled to survivor benefits including pensions.

Employers have a duty in law to ensure a safe working environment, and will also now be required to ensure that the workplace is safe from Covid-19 and/or any other dangerous communicable diseases, especially those can result in death or other permanent disabilities.

With the movement control order in place, which still requires workplaces that provide for essential services to operate, workers traveling to and from work, and at these workplace are everyday at risk of being infected by the Covid-19 virus, which to date has also resulted in many deaths worldwide, and as such workers need protection, and this can be done by specifically classifying Covid-19 as an occupational disease.

Now, recently even workers in charge of Human Resources, are required to travel and return to their workplaces for the purposes of arranging the monthly payment of salaries to workers.

Workers who are also needed (or forced) to stay in particular accommodation by employers, should also be covered. This also ought to be considered an ‘occupational disease’, and be accorded all the needed social protection.

While the Covid-19 pandemic highlights the inadequacies in occupational safety and health laws, and also social security laws for workers, it is time to remedy these failings.

One must note, that in the past, there has also been allegations of some workers forced to house together or work together has ended up contracting life threatening ailments like tuberculosis from other workers they are made to stay and/or work with.

All such ailments, not just Covid-19, which can cause death or other disabilities that may impact these workers future employment and income, ought to be specifically classified as occupational diseases, and workers should be accorded all benefits under social protection laws.

These laws should apply to all workers, including migrant workers and domestic workers.

In Malaysia, local workers are generally covered by the Employees' Social Security Act 1969, which provides better protection to workers and/or their families compared to the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1952 that generally covered migrant workers. There must be equal protection for all workers, even domestic workers.

For now, The Human Resource Minister, can use the powers conferred by subsection 32(2) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 [Act 514], and declares that Covid-19 be recognized as an occupational diseases. Other changes and/or amendments to law to ensure equal protection to all workers may require Parliament.

Therefore, we 

-          Call on Malaysia to  immediately make Covid-19 an occupational disease, especially if it is contracted at the workplace, on journey to and from work, and in worker accommodations provided by the employer;

-          Call on Malaysia to amend all relevant worker social security law, to ensure appropriate just remedy to workers, their families and/or dependents especially in the event of death, or disability impacting future capacity to work and/or earn an income;

-          Call on Malaysia to ensure that employers are legally bound to provide a safe working environment, including safety from infection from human to human contact at the workplace for diseases like Covid-19,

-          Call on Malaysia and all employers to ensure that occupational safety and health of all workers are always prioritized and protected.    

Charles Hector
Apolinar Tolentino 

For and on behalf of the following 51 groups

WH4C(Workers Hub For Change)
Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC)
Clean Clothes Campaign Network (CCC)
Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) Asia Pacific Region
Labour Behind the Label, United Kingdom
Odhikar, Bangladesh
National Union of Transport Equipment & Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAW), Malaysia
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
Timber Industry Employee Union Sarawak (TIEUS)
MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
North South Initiative(NSI)
Kesatuan Sekerja Industri Elektronik Wilayah Selatan, Semenanjung Malaysia (KSIEWSSM)
Sarawak Banking Employees Union
MTUC Sarawak (Malaysian Trade Union Congress – Sarawak)
Malayan Technical Services Union           
Timber Employees Union of Peninsula Malaysia
Malay Forest Officers Union      
PKNS Union       
Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union
National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM)
Legal Action for Women, United Kingdom
Global Womens Strike, United Kingdom
Malaysian Automotive Industry Workers Union Federation
Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
National Union of Banking Employees(NUBE)
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor                       
Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, United Kingdom
Association of Human Rights and Defenders and Promoters- HRDP(Myanmar)
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India
MARUAH, Singapore
IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh
Legal Awareness Watch (LAW), Pakistan
Asociación de Trabajadoras del Hogar a Domicilio y de Maquila–Atrahdom, Guatemala
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), India
Marvi Rural Development Organization (MRDO), Pakistan
Onward Consulting, Malaysia    
Women of Colour Global Women Strike, United Kingdom
Payday, United Kingdom
Women Against Rape (UK)
Bangladesh Group Netherlands
International  Black Women for Wages for Housework
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, UK
Asosasyon ng mga Makabayang Manggagawang Pilipino Overseas in Malaysia (AMMPO-SENTRO)
European Rohingya Council
WinVisible (women with visible & invisible disabilities)
Campaign Abiti Puliti (Italian CCC)
Collectif Etique sur l’etiquette, France

Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia(NAMM)
Gender Alliance for Development Center, Albania
Sudwind, Austria
Radanar Ayar Association, Myanmar

* When intially released, there were 47, but now there are 51 groups who jointly issued this statement

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