The cost of neglecting our blue-collar workers…

The pandemic is perhaps showing us the true colour of some selfish employers among us


YEAR 2020 in retrospect is a nightmare for most of us, save for the ultra-rich and glovemakers.

It has been nine months since Malaysians were introduced to do the term: Movement Control Order (MCO).

Now, on Dec 23, we are still living under this MCO, and judging by the recent development, we may need to prepare for further extension of the MCO in our lives.

It is heartbreaking, if not irritating situations for us to be in. We stayed home. But, we have not even succeeded in breaking the chain of Covid-19 transmission.

What did we do wrong?

Apart from staying home for the most part of the year, we adopted to the new normal. We worked from home.

At some point, in July, we managed to flatten the curve. We celebrated when we reported zero infection for two consecutive days.

Yet, now, less than 10 days before we usher into the New Year, we seem to be stuck in the same four-digit curse and it sees no signs of abating as yet.

Experts cautioned that we may hit the 100,000 mark by year-end. Judging by the trend, it is not impossible.

So really, what did we do wrong? Some have faulted the Sabah by-election for Covid-19 resurgence in our country.

This had prompted the government to propose a nationwide emergency as a response and thankfully, cooler heads prevailed.

The cost would be too high for us to bear, socially, politically and economically, of course.

Still, what caused these new cases from popping out of nowhere every now and then? Was there any warning sign? Did we rush a wee bit too early to reopen our economy that the employers were not given enough time to take any precautionary measures to protect the workers?

Nobody seems to give us the answer. What we know is we need to balance our health and livelihood, provided we adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs): Physical distancing and all.

Workplace clusters began to unveil in November. It started from construction sites, which is kind of ironic since this sector was among the first to be allowed to operate, with SOPs and all.

Subsequently, cases from glove manufacturers were also reported. Cases from Top Glove cluster emerged as the highest in this country, surpassing the Tabligh cluster which was reported earlier this year.

What is the common cause for these workplace clusters? Living conditions become the major factor.

Instead of learning from our neighbour, Singapore, it appeared that some of us did not heed the warning signs.

Sadly, the whistleblowers who reported their work and living conditions were terminated from their jobs.

A media outlet that tried to warn us over these issues was kicked out of the country. Unfortunately, it is us who have to pay the price for the selfishness of some. Again.

The pandemic is perhaps showing us the true colour of some selfish employers among us.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M Saravanan recently described the living conditions of some workers’ place as a “modern-day slavery”, and although his comment was on point, this also shows how we, from the government to the people, have inadvertently or not, ignored the plight of our blue-collar workers, until coronavirus came.

We should learn our lesson by now. Hopefully we will.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.