APRIL 2 — We, the 51 undersigned groups, organisations and trade unions, in response to the advent of Covid-19, an infectious disease that can easily be transmitted to other human persons, including workers, urge that the Malaysian government immediately recognise and make Covid-19 an occupational disease.

By so doing, workers who are infected by Covid-19 at their workplace, even during this period, will become entitled to social protection accorded by social security schemes and laws.

For those who die, by reason of getting infected by Covid-19 at the workplace, will also be easily entitled to compensations, and their spouses/children/elderly parents will also become entitled to survivor benefits including pensions.

Employers have a duty in law to ensure a safe working environment, and will also now be required to ensure that the workplace is safe from Covid-19 and/or any other dangerous communicable diseases, especially those can result in death or other permanent disabilities.


With the movement control order in place, which still requires workplaces that provide for essential services to operate, workers traveling to and from work, and at these workplace are everyday at risk of being infected by the Covid-19 virus, which to date has also resulted in many deaths worldwide, and as such workers need protection, and this can be done by specifically classifying Covid-19 as an occupational disease.

Now, recently even workers in charge of human resources, are required to travel and return to their workplaces for the purposes of arranging the monthly payment of salaries to workers.

Workers who are also needed (or forced) to stay in particular accommodation by employers, should also be covered. This also ought to be considered an “occupational disease,” and be accorded all the needed social protection.


While the Covid-19 pandemic highlights the inadequacies in occupational safety and health laws, and also social security laws for workers, it is time to remedy these failings.

One must note, that in the past, there has also been allegations of some workers forced to house together or work together has ended up contracting life threatening ailments like tuberculosis from other workers they are made to stay and/or work with.

All such ailments, not just Covid-19, which can cause death or other disabilities that may impact these workers future employment and income, ought to be specifically classified as occupational diseases, and workers should be accorded all benefits under social protection laws.

These laws should apply to all workers, including migrant workers and domestic workers.

In Malaysia, local workers are generally covered by the Employees' Social Security Act 1969, which provides better protection to workers and/or their families compared to the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1952 that generally covered migrant workers. There must be equal protection for all workers, even domestic workers.

For now, The Human Resource Minister, can use the powers conferred by subsection 32(2) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 [Act 514], and declares that Covid-19 be recognised as an occupational diseases. Other changes and/or amendments to law to ensure equal protection to all workers may require Parliament.

Therefore, we

  • Call on Malaysia to immediately make Covid-19 an occupational disease, especially if it is contracted at the workplace, on journey to and from work, and in worker accommodations provided by the employer;
  • Call on Malaysia to amend all relevant worker social security law, to ensure appropriate just remedy to workers, their families and/or dependents especially in the event of death, or disability impacting future capacity to work and/or earn an income;
  • Call on Malaysia to ensure that employers are legally bound to provide a safe working environment, including safety from infection from human to human contact at the workplace for diseases like Covid-19;
  • Call on Malaysia and all employers to ensure that occupational safety and health of all workers are always prioritised and protected.

* Charles Hector and Apolinar Tolentino for and on behalf of the following 51 groups:

WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)

Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC)

Clean Clothes Campaign Network (CCC)

Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) Asia Pacific Region

Labour Behind the Label, United Kingdom

Odhikar, Bangladesh

National Union of Transport Equipment & Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAW), Malaysia

Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)

Timber Industry Employee Union Sarawak (TIEUS)

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

North South Initiative (NSI)

Kesatuan Sekerja Industri Elektronik Wilayah Selatan, Semenanjung Malaysia (KSIEWSSM)

Sarawak Banking Employees Union

MTUC Sarawak (Malaysian Trade Union Congress — Sarawak)

Malayan Technical Services Union

Timber Employees Union of Peninsula Malaysia

Malay Forest Officers Union

PKNS Union

Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union

National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM)

Legal Action for Women, United Kingdom

Global Womens Strike, United Kingdom

Malaysian Automotive Industry Workers Union Federation

Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)

National Union of Banking Employees(NUBE)

Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, United Kingdom

Association of Human Rights and Defenders and Promoters — HRDP (Myanmar)

Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (Masum), India

MARUAH, Singapore

IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh

Legal Awareness Watch (LAW), Pakistan

Asociacion de Trabajadoras del Hogar a Domicilio y de Maquila–Atrahdom, Guatemala

Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (Pacti), India

Marvi Rural Development Organization (MRDO), Pakistan

Onward Consulting, Malaysia

Women of Colour Global Women Strike, United Kingdom

Payday, United Kingdom

Women Against Rape (UK)

Bangladesh Group Netherlands

International Black Women for Wages for Housework

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, UK

Asosasyon ng mga Makabayang Manggagawang Pilipino Overseas in Malaysia (AMMPO-Sentro)

European Rohingya Council

WinVisible (women with visible & invisible disabilities)

Campaign Abiti Puliti (Italian CCC)

Collectif Ethique sur l'étiquette (France)

Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)

Gender Alliance for Development Center, Albania

Sudwind, Austria

Radanar Ayar Association, Myanmar

* This is the personal opinion of the writer(s) or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.