KUCHING, Sept 8 — The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak has blamed the state’s surge in Covid-19 cases on selective lockdowns and the lack of support for a total lockdown.
Its secretary Andrew Lo said despite having the best immunisation programme in the country, the rise in cases is a result of the state government ignoring “the sentiments and views of the workers, civil society, and the rakyat”.
“We must call on employers, especially the connected ones and the business associations, to support a full lockdown; otherwise, they will be just cutting their noses to spite their faces,” Lo said in a press statement.
He claimed almost every business can survive a month or two of total lockdown, but most will die slow and painful deaths with what is happening right now.
According to him, selective lockdowns are inherently unfair as those businesses that remain open are prospering at the expense of those forced to shut down.
He opined there must not be any exemptions.
He claimed MTUC Sarawak and the Sarawak Bank Employees Union were among those calling upon the state to initiate a full lockdown in May.
“If only they had listened to MTUC Sarawak and the Sarawak Bank Employees Union’s call for a total lockdown and expedited vaccination for workers in essential services,” he lamented.
He called it appalling that Sarawak revised conditions to allow businesses, especially big factories with positive cases, to continue operating as usual.
Given that Covid-19 cases have escalated to record highs in Sarawak, Lo claimed the only sensible move is declaring a complete lockdown and providing wage subsidies for all workers in the private sector.
“Almost a year of half-baked measures, U-turns, the most confusing SOPs, and chest thumping by ministers has led us to this dismal situation.
“All our sickness, deaths, and economic pain have amounted to nothing. There are legitimate grounds for complaints. This is the price we pay when our leaders fail us,” he claimed.
Lo called on all Malaysians to comply with every necessary measure to beat the pandemic, pointing out that Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had also appealed to the public to practise ‘self-lockdown’.
“If it is means losing much of our liberties and conveniences, so be it. We hope it should not take more than one month. Otherwise, we will die a slow and painful death,” he stated.
Lo added a self-lockdown without income security is impossible for workers struggling to put food on the table, while businesses and employers also need assistance.
“In this regard, we propose the burden to be equally shared between the government, employer, and workers,” he said, suggesting the government provides a one-third subsidy, the employer pays a one-third wage, and workers sacrifice one-third of their pay — subject to a minimum wage of RM1,200.
According to him, the government must also prioritise vaccination for essential service workers as well as for labour-intensive industries such as manufacturing and construction as workplace clusters make up 60 per cent of new clusters.
Lo also called for all medical clinics to assist in the vaccination programme, instead of just relying on a few centres.
He said the government must also ensure food security for all, including the unemployed and migrant workers.
On Monday, Sarawak recorded 3,714 Covid-19 cases — the highest in the country. — Borneo Post Online