In Penang, most employers in both services and manufacturing sectors support vaccine mandate for workers

Ong said the Pikas PPVs in Penang are now dispensing 15,000 Covid jabs per day and are moving towards increasing to 20,000 doses per day. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Ong said the Pikas PPVs in Penang are now dispensing 15,000 Covid jabs per day and are moving towards increasing to 20,000 doses per day. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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GEORGE TOWN, Aug 1 — Factories and small businesses in Penang, especially those hard hit by disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are looking forward to resuming operations as soon as possible even if it means making vaccination mandatory for their workers.

As there are currently no laws to enforce mandatory Covid-19 vaccination on workers, some companies are taking steps to get their workers to register for vaccination.

Penang Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) chairman Datuk Jimmy Ong said most factories here are encouraging their workers to register for their Covid jabs through various methods.

“Some companies are giving paid leave to their workers to go for vaccination and some are even offering monetary rewards,” he said.

He said the main reason multinational companies (MNC) are setting up Program Imunisasi Industri Covid-19 Kerjasama Awam-Swasta (Pikas) vaccination centres within their own factory grounds is to encourage their workers to get vaccinated.

He said the Pikas PPVs in Penang are now dispensing 15,000 doses per day and are moving towards increasing to 20,000 doses per day.

He said the vaccination of workers in MNCs is progressing very fast due to the on-site PPVs for larger factories which employ thousands of workers.

“It is slower for small medium enterprises as they can only send their workers to the Pikas PPVs and there are only two of those now; one in Jawi and one at Equatorial Hotel,” he said.

Even with vaccination in full force, Ong said some of the companies in the manufacturing sector have continued to conduct screening of workers every two to three weeks.

“Screening still has to continue to control any potential spread of cases within the factories because we know, even those vaccinated still have a risk of contracting Covid-19,” he said.

FMM Penang branch offers a Penang SAFE programme for factories to conduct screening tests for its workers at a lower rate of RM60 per person.

Ong said the programme recommends that any company taking up the package conduct screening of 100 per cent of its staff in the first round.

“After that, they can conduct screening on 20 per cent of their staff for the second round and another 20 per cent on the third round, and so on,” he said.

Meanwhile, one of the SMEs in Penang, Chemdyes Sdn Bhd, has checked labour laws on ways to compel its employees to get vaccinated.

The company’s managing director Joe Sidek said it was informed that there are at present no laws for the company to compel its employees to register for vaccination.

“We can’t legally force them to register for vaccination, it is a personal right, so what we do is to encourage them to do it as a way to safeguard everyone’s safety in the workplace,” he said.

The factory, specialising in textile chemicals, has about 22 workers and Joe said all have registered for vaccination.

A nurse administers a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the Pikas vaccination centre at the Bukit Jawi Golf Resort in Penang June 17, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
A nurse administers a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the Pikas vaccination centre at the Bukit Jawi Golf Resort in Penang June 17, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

He said despite the downturn in the textile industry due to the pandemic, Chemdyes recorded stable revenue last year and expects an increase in revenue this year.

“We have kept all our staff and did not cut any pay so we have been very fortunate and we want to ensure that everyone is safe, we do not want to have any cases that could disrupt production,” he said.

He said he would allow his workers to stay home for a week and to undergo screening tests if they have been exposed to places with a high number of Covid-19 cases.

Meanwhile, it was reported that the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) is considering making vaccination of all employees in the retail sector one of the pre-conditions for approval for companies to resume operation, during the National Recovery Plan (NRP) period.

Yin’s Sourdough Bakery and cafe co-founder Ong Seng Keat has already made it compulsory for all of its 40 workers to sign up for vaccination.

“We will check our workers’ MySejahtera to make sure they have registered and if we have to pay for it, we will,” he said.

His company has already paid for all of his workers in Klang Valley to be vaccinated under a retail industry vaccination programme.

He hopes such programmes will be available in Penang so he can send all his workers to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

“The government really needs to speed up its vaccination programme for the economic frontliners because we deal with people every day,” he said.

Mugshot Cafe co-founder Jesse Tan agrees with Ong that vaccination for economic frontliners should be sped up.

“So far, all of our staff have registered for vaccination but they are still waiting for their appointments,” he said.

One of Mugshot’s staff contracted Covid-19 a few months back due to close contact with a relative but fortunately, it did not spread to the other staff in the cafe.

“There are 15 of us in the cafe and all of us went for screening the moment we found out he was positive but luckily, we were all negative,” he said.

He said the incident further emphasises the importance of vaccination for all workers who deal with customers daily.

As for Hin Bus Depot manager Tan Shih Thoe, he is also considering only allowing fully vaccinated vendors to participate in the Hin Bus Depot weekly bazaar, when they are finally allowed to reopen.

“I was just thinking about this, especially for the market, whether I should only allow vendors who are fully vaccinated to participate... main consideration is their safety since the market is considered a crowded space,” he said.

There used to be 70 vendors at the weekly market before the pandemic but due to standard operating procedures (SOPs), the number of vendors came down to around 55 each week.

The market has been closed for more than two months due to the movement control order (MCO) and subsequent phases of the NRP.

Hin Bus Depot has around 15 tenants, consisting of eateries and artisans, and Tan said he will also strongly encourage the tenants and their workers to register for vaccination.

“Most of them are in favour of vaccination as they see it as the only solution to things getting back to normal,” he said.

Furry Kids pet shop owner Dalbinder Singh also agrees that it is important for those in the retail sector to be vaccinated.

“We are meeting people and customers daily so it is important for the safety of everyone,” he said.

However, he said it would be infringing on the individual’s human rights to force workers to register for vaccination so he can only encourage them to do so.

“Fortunately, all of my staff have registered but they are still waiting... I am also still waiting for my appointment,” he said.

He too said vaccination for retail workers should be sped up since they face customers daily.

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