KUALA LUMPUR 19 May - General Secretary of the National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE), J.Solomon revealed that he was call to give a statement to the police yesterday, following an official report by Human Resources Minister, Datuk M Saravanan.
"The police report against me is baffling and an intimidation tactic," said Solomon in a statement today.
He said, on April 22, the minister had announced that the enforcement of Act 446 governing workers’ housing standards will be postponed until the end of the year following representations from the manufacturing sector which had asked for more time in view of the Covid-19.
"His statement was carried by media outlets," said Solomon. Below is his full statement:
19 May 2021
- Yesterday, I was called up by the police to give a statement on a report lodged by Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan against me for a statement I issued against the suspension of the implementation of implementation of Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446) and the wisdom of the decision in light of the worsening Covid-19 pandemic.
- In his police report, the minister had claimed that I slandered him and misled the public in asking the ministry to retract its decision to relax the enforcement of the Workers' Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446).
- The police report against me is baffling and an intimidation tactic. On April 22, the minister had announced that the enforcement of Act 446 governing workers’ housing standards will be postponed until the end of the year following representations from the manufacturing sector which had asked for more time in view of the Covid-19. His statement was carried by media outlets.
- In recent weeks, especially after he made the statement, the number of workplace Covid-19 clusters have been on the rise and, naturally, unions have every right to bring up issues concerning the workers, especially those in the lower cadre salary, who depend on their employers’ benevolence for a reasonably clean and comfortable housing but mostly end up getting the opposite.
- Cramped, unhygienic living conditions with poor sanitation and little ventilation, which many foreign workers are subjected to, are potential clusters for diseases, not just Covid-19. Such clusters, if they happen, will impact Malaysians, both at work places and the general public more so in the current third wave of the pandemic.
- The Health Ministry had warned in the past that cramped living conditions with poor hygiene and sanitation of foreign workers has had an adverse impact is a “conducive condition" for Covid-19 to spread easily.
- Based on the aforesaid, we were against the relaxation to enforce Act 446.
- NUBE had made a strong statement on the non-compliance of Act 446 by employers as it has a serious impact on the safety and health of the millions of foreign workers in the country.
- However, NUBE was not surprised when Saravanan’s statement to withhold the enforcement of Act 446 was lauded by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) which came up with a statement immediately after that, thanking the government for the relaxation. MEF said that the postponement of the enforcement to the end of the year has given them some breathing space. The MEF's statement on April 23 was also carried by Malaysian National News Agency, Bernama and other media outlets.
- The Minister failed to take into account that the employers have been given more than adequate time to comply with Act 446, and yet, when enforcement was most needed, the minister saw it fit to take a lenient stand, as reported by the media. And when NUBE called out the minister on the matter, he responded by lodging a police report.
- I view Saravanan’s police report against me as a blatant tactic to intimidate workers’ unions, to deter them from speaking up against any violation of workers’ rights which have been eroded time and again in the self-interest of unscrupulous employers.
- I further state that as the NUBE general secretary and the MTUC general council member, and a former MTUC secretary-general, I will continue to protect my fellow workers and voice out any attempts to erode their rights. I will not be cowed by any form of intimidation by anyone, especially, the Minister of Human Resources.
- The move to lodge a police report against union leaders who speak up for the workers is a cowardly act, more so if done by the minister who is responsible for the plight of millions of workers and whose focus should be on helping them during this MCO, instead of wasting time attacking union leaders who are merely carrying out their responsibilities.
- As such I urge the government to be positive to the unions’ statements and be receptive to our suggestions and views instead of being defensive and going to the police who are already facing a huge challenge implementing the MCO.
- In any event, I have cooperated with the police who were very professional when they interviewed me.
- As for NUBE strong response to the minister’s decision to give leeway to employers and relax the enforcement of Act446 as reported by the media, the Minister or his officials should have called us up for discussion and sought clarification from us on our statement.
- As public servants, they ought to have done so. Instead the minister chose to use intimidating tactic such as lodging a police report against a me, in my capacity as union leader for taking a stand against the government reticence to enforce Act446.
- Public confidence in the government is built on the trust that our leaders will act on the serious problems affecting them, more so in the current pandemic. The Human Resources Minister must address the health risk and safety at workplaces and the living conditions of foreign workers, who the country relies heavily to drive its manufacturing, plantation and retail sectors. The minister must learn accept valid criticism and not use the state instruments, including the police force against those who take a stand opposed to his.
- The minister and the government should start respecting the workers who make up half the Malaysian population instead of increasing public anger by going to the police when I had merely carried out the trust placed on me as a senior union leader.
- As such, NUBE once again, calls on the minister to issue a clear and unequivocal statement that his ministry will use the full weight of his office to enforce Act 446. We call upon his office to also provide periodic statistics on the enforcement checks, including how many employers have been booked for flouting Act 446. Full transparency in this matter will restore a lot of goodwill between the minister and workers and their union leaders. - DagangNews.com