by AZREEN HANI / Pic by ARIF KARTONO
SEVERAL manufacturing facilities have become the latest breeding ground for Covid-19 with a total of 859 new positive cases detected within a period of one week.
The latest cases were recorded at Pecca Group Bhd’s subsidiary, Pecca Leather Sdn Bhd, with a total of 246 new patients detected following the firm’s recent screening exercise.
On Monday, condom maker Karex Bhd stated that it had identified 35 cases through its recent routine screening of over 2,000 employees, while Panasonic Manufacturing Malaysia Bhd reported 116 positive cases from both of its facilities in Shah Alam, Selangor.
Last week, Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd voluntarily stopped operations in one of its affected plants, where 427 positive Covid-19 cases (eight local, 419 foreigners) were recorded among workers at the company’s glove division.
Subsequently, Hartalega Holdings Bhd also saw 35 of its employees tested positive for the virus, from 8,772 tests conducted by the Health Ministry’s certified independent clinic.
A health expert said there is an urgent need for the authorities and employers to look into improving the living and working conditions of factory staff, especially migrant workers.
“Covid has exposed our weak link — those vulnerable people with poor living conditions are at higher risk of infection.
“If we can improve the working and living conditions of these high-risk groups, we could help control the infection. ‘I protect you and you protect me’ because everybody matters in the end,” former Malaysian Medical Association president Dr John Chew told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) yesterday.
He cautioned that only the improvement of these conditions will help mitigate the virus as migrant workers with insecure jobs and documentation are hard to trace.
“It will be hard to help us in disease control, with the workers disappearing after being diagnosed,” he said.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M Saravanan recently described the living condition of migrant workers at a glovemaking company as “modern slavery”.
Prior to this, Saravanan also told the Dewan Rakyat that over 90% of accommodation of foreign workers provided by their employers in the country did not comply with the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990.
Meanwhile, both Building and Wood Worker’s International Asia Pacific (BWI) and Labour Law Reform Coalition (LLRC) urged the government to investigate these errant employers and if necessary, bring charges against them for violating minimum housing standards.
“If the hostel situation is now remedied, there has to be procedures set in place for regular inspections.
“Annual budgets should also be set aside for the maintenance of the premises by employers to ensure that this would be sustainable,” a statement from LLRC read.
It added that employers should also enable proper testing and medical facilities for those who have potentially been exposed to Covid19 due to cramped living quarters.
“The exploitation of migrant workers must stop, and errant employers who fail to comply with their legal obligation as per the law must be charged accordingly,” BWI regional representative Apolinar Tolentino said.
Earlier this month, TMR reported that the Department of Labour of Peninsular Malaysia will take legal action against several companies, including the world’s largest glove manufacturer, Top Glove Corp Bhd, involving the provision of housing for their employees.
Top Glove-linked Teratai cluster had identified 5,156 positive individuals as at Dec 4, making it the biggest Covid-19 cluster in the country.
Based on the results of the operation, a total of 21 investigation papers have been opened and 63 charges involving the six groups of companies will be prosecuted in court for breaching the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446).