IPOH, June 2 — Five picketeers were arrested about noon today after participating in a peaceful protest in front of the Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun (HRPB) here against their employer Edgenta UEMS in a bid to claim their rights.
The five were named as M. Saraswathy, L. Danaletchumy, V. Santhiran who are all office-bearers in the National Union of Workers in Hospital Support and Allied Services’ (NUWHSAS) as well as P. Jothi and C. Subramaniam @ Raja who are Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) members, according to party secretary-general A. Sivarajan.
The picket kicked off at about 11am and aimed to raise attention to the hospital cleaners’ grouses, including the lack of protective gear against infections, such as the Covid-19 virus and was participated by fewer than 20 people.
“These frontliner workers, who are cleaners in the government hospitals, are already victimised by their employer and now their rights are further trampled upon,” Sivarajan claimed in a press statement.
He said the picketeers had followed the SOPs for the movement control order (MCO) currently in effect in the fight against the coronavirus, including practising social distancing but were taken in for allegedly breaking the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 as well as Section 186 and 269 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) for obstructing a public servant in the discharge of his duties and negligently acting in a way that is known will spread dangerous diseases.
The five were arrested about an hour later.
“We call on the police to immediately release the union officials without charge or penalty,” Sivarajan added.
Sivarajan claimed that members of the NUWHSAS have been subjected to constant harassment, victimisation and union-busting activities since early this year after making multiple police reports and complaints to the Human Resources Ministry against Edgenta UEMS.
“Union members especially worksite committee members have been subjected to deliberate changing of their working hours and shifts unilaterally without prior consent from them.
“Workers active in union have also been punished by arbitrarily transferring them out to hospitals far away from their residence. Workers are forced to work longer hours without overtime pay,” he claimed.
He said the employer also prohibits union activities, threatening disciplinary action against the union officials.
“Workers were not allowed to do overtime and also suffered constant verbal harassment and intimidation by Edgenta UEMS supervisors towards the union worksite committee,” he said.
“Edgenta UEMS has denied proper PPE equipment when they clean the Covid 19 wards and facilities, putting them at great risk of infection. There is also inadequate supply of facemask and gloves for the workers,” he further claimed.
He also pointed out that the workers were denied special government allowance of RM600 to frontline workers and the employer only paid a one-off token sum of RM300.
“There is no annual increment in wages, no increment of eligible number of annual paid holidays or sick leave and discontinued subsidised transport services for the workers,” he said.
Malay Mail has reached out to the police for comment but was unable to contact Edgenta UEMS at the time of reporting.
*Editor’s note: An earlier version was wrongly titled “Five Ipoh hospital cleaners arrested for peaceful picket to protest union busting move” and has been replaced with this corrected copy. Any confusion is regretted.