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Malaysian unions fight for workers during lockdown

3 April, 2020Trade unions in Malaysia have lodged complaints over factories remaining open during the lockdown, jeopardizing workers’ health and safety.

On 21 March, IndustriALL affiliate Electronics Industry Employees’ Union Southern Region (EIEUSR) lodged a complaint with the police against MFS Technology (M) Sdn. Bhd. The company defied the Movement Control Order of the Malaysian government instructing all non-essential companies to shut down between 18-31 March, due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Idawati Idrus, deputy general secretary of EIEUSR and co-chair of IndustriALL Malaysia women committee, says:

“Together with the union members, mostly women, we lodged complaints with the police and the Ministry of International Trade and Industries (MITI). Direct action can empower our members and make them brave.

“Although the police closed the factory immediately, the factory resumed operations after two days by obtaining approval from MITI. But only ten per cent of the workers returned to work; they were scared of being infected.”

IndustriALL Global Union regional secretary Annie Adviento applauds the action.

“Workers have the right to refuse to work if the work environment is unsafe and unhealthy. The government and the employer must respect occupational safety and health.”

The National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW) sent a letter to the headquarter of Robert Bosch, disputing the company’s decision to continue production.

“Our members are dissatisfied because products of the company, mainly automotive accessories, are not regarded as essential services. Despite this, the company got approval from MITI. We demand that the factory close during the lockdown, which has been extended to 14 April,”

says Nadesan Gopalkishnam, NUTEAIW general secretary.

A broad coalition of 58 trade unions and NGOs, the Labour Law Reform Coalition, has put forward a demand that the Prime Minister introduce 80 per cent guaranteed wage subsidy as a step to save jobs and transform the Malaysian social protection system.