NUBE URGES MOHR TO ENGAGE WITH SOCIAL PARTNERS INSTEAD OF ISSUING BASELESS THREATS AGAINST UNVACCINATED EMPLOYEES
On 3 September 2021, it was reported that the Minister of Human Resources, Datuk Seri M. Saravanan issued a statement that "workers who refuse to get their COVID-19 vaccine jabs can face action under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act 1994 for causing an unsafe environment at the workplace." According to the news, Datuk Seri M. Saravanan also stated that although there is no legal provision that makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory, the OSH Act 1994 requires employers to ensure a safe working environment that does not harm their employees. The Minister appears to imply that employers have a duty to compel their employees to be vaccinated.
The National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) is of the view that these statements and the threat of action against unvaccinated employees are unwarranted, unsubstantiated and discriminatory.
It is widely accepted that COVID-19 vaccinations cannot always prevent COVID-19 infections and that infected persons who have been vaccinated can still transmit the virus to others. This has been acknowledged by the Ministry of Health. Further, it is now known that the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines wanes within months.
NUBE is concerned that such careless statements by the Minister of Human Resources may lead to unjustified discrimination against unvaccinated employees, unfair dismissals of unvaccinated employees and discrimination by employers in the hiring process.
NUBE is also concerned because the Minister’s statement has caused unnecessary anxiety and mental stress among employees who are already undergoing severe stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of issuing statements that may result in employers forcing their employees to be vaccinated, the Minister should instead be focusing on working with employers to engage with their employees on their health concerns, the risks and efficacy of vaccinations, providing avenues for open dialogue with medical experts and religious leaders. The Government should discuss alternative approaches to protect against the transmission and spread of COVID-19 infections, including those who are unable to get vaccinated or do not wish to get vaccinated for various personal and health reasons.
NUBE is of the view that before the Ministry of Human Resources takes any actions or issue any statements to affect employers and employees on the matter of vaccinations against COVID-19, the Minister ought to have convened meetings involving all stakeholders, including the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF).
NUBE has communicated to the Minister of Human Resources on various issues affecting bank workers, but he failed to even respond to us on the issues we have raised.
The Prime Minister, Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has adopted the "Keluarga Malaysia" approach since his appointment as the 9th Prime Minister of Malaysia. It would be very unfortunate and disappointing if the Ministry of Human Resources takes an approach that goes against the commitment given by our current Government.
NUBE hopes that the Ministry of Human Resources will respect the spirit of social dialogue with all stakeholders, including MTUC, MEF and NUBE, to strive towards attaining holistic social protection for all employees involved.
9 SEPTEMBER 2021