International Trade and Industry Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali has announced that all workers of firms that are allowed to operate during the movement control order (MCO) must undergo mandatory Covid-19 screening. MTUC is in full agreement with the minister on this measure.
However, MTUC is aghast at the minister’s statement that Socso will pick up the tab for the compulsory screening which will cost millions of ringgit and further deplete Socso’s dwindling coffers.
Azmin and the government seem to have lost sight of the fact that Socso is a workers compensation fund which is run with monthly contributions from workers as well as employers. Migrant workers are also covered with employers contributing for them.
Socso funds are meant to help injured or sick workers and their families in times of need. It is shocking that the government has no second thoughts about dipping into the hard-earned savings of poor workers to fund Covid-19 screenings which will benefit employers who get away scot-free from any burden of paying for the screenings of their own employees.
By using Socso funds for mandatory Covid-19 screening of workers, this government is blatantly treating Socso as its cash cow to fund pro-employer policies.
Azmin must justify his reason for exempting employers from contributing towards the Covid-19 screenings of their own workers. These are workers needed by employers to restart making profits and yet it is Socso which has to pick up the bill to make that happen. This is blatantly unfair and lopsided.
As things stand, the ones who will benefit the most at the expense of workers will be Socso-appointed private clinics and employers themselves. Funds meant for workers’ social protection and retirement savings should not be used to gain political mileage.
Socso funds are depleting. It was only some months back that Socso was forced to stop giving free dialysis treatment to certain contributors. Only after a public outcry did the Socso board restore the benefit.
The previous government also allocated RM500 million of Socso funds to build a state-of-the-art rehabilitation centre in the constituency of the former human resources minister, a project that should be funded by government funds, if at all such a massive centre is needed.
Socso is also reeling from some bad investments amounting to billions of ringgit linked to the purchase of prime land and IT systems which have not yielded any returns for several years. MTUC raised this issue several times during Socso board meetings, calling for a probe into these deals which smack of bailing out prominent government-linked individuals. Workers’ money is being spent without any consideration of the fact that this fund is meant for workers’ social protection.
These extravagant and misguided investments have resulted in the depletion of Socso funds. The long-term welfare of workers is at risk of being compromised. The strain on Socso coffers will worsen if workers’ contributions are now used for the mandatory screenings of workers as proposed by the government.
As the workers’ representatives, we vehemently oppose this decision which has obviously been made in the interest of the employers and not the poor workers who make the mandatory contribution for this fund through their blood, sweat and tears.
Once again, the government has been insensitive to the needs and future of workers, dipping into workmen’s compensation fund meant specifically for workers who are injured or sick as well as the family members of those who have lost their lives.
If employers are keen to resume operations which will obviously mainly benefit the company, it is only logical that they pay for the screening. Isn’t it like the government asking them to install their thermal scanners and other protective equipment and materials which are at the expense of the company? Why the double standard here?
Having said this, we must remind the government and employers that they have a bigger role to play to check the spread of Covid-19 at workplaces as screening and the other measures advocated by the government are not effective without solid enforcement on the ground.
There must be full focus on the enforcement of all safety regulations at all times to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infections at workplaces and businesses. Merely taking temperatures will be of no use on asymptomatic employers. The use of sanitiser, gloves and face masks is important but perhaps not as important as ensuring that safe distancing is practised at workplaces, including cafeterias and factory buses.
We are bringing this up as we have received complaints from workers that safe distancing is not being enforced in the buses that ferry them to and from work and company cafeterias. One such complaint came from a factory that has 1,000 workers in each shift.
There is also a complaint of a large factory having a few Covid-19 positive cases in their workforce but the management refusing to acknowledge it or disinfect the affected departments for fear of shutting down the machines. This action smacks of putting economic interests ahead of workers’ safety. This must be abhorred at all times as lives are at stake.
We urge the government to look into giving factories and other workplaces access to hiring Rela and police voluntary reserve personnel to strengthen the enforcement of ministry regulations in workplaces. Strength in numbers to enforce regulations is important to instil public and workers’ confidence in safety at workplaces. We should leave nothing to chance as the consequences could be dire.
Here, we need absolute honesty both from the employers and the government to ensure that the rights and health of workers are prioritised. The government must stop making decisions that seem to favour the employers the most. They must endeavour to strike a safe and fair balance.
Source : https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/…/why-use-socso-funds-to…/