PETALING JAYA: A coalition of contract workers who work in government hospitals, schools and other government buildings has urged Putrajaya to abolish the contract system that they are currently under and reabsorb them as permanent workers.
They argued that the contract system had resulted in workers, especially cleaners and security guards, are being deprived of employee benefits and remuneration. They are also exposed to various forms of labour abuse.
Jaringan Pekerja Kontrak Kerajaan (JPKK) secretary Sivaranjani Manickam said they want the government to put a stop to the culture of middlemen and cronyism in their sectors.
During an online forum on the challenges faced by contract workers, she said the reabsorption of workers into the government could also reduce wastage as they would no longer need to pay the fee surcharged by contractors and sub-contractors.
Meanwhile, Danaletchimi Langaswaran, who is an officer with the National Union of Workers in Hospital Support and Allied Services, which represents hospital cleaners, said they were currently not recognised as frontliners and were therefore not entitled to any one-off incentives under previous economic stimulus packages for Covid-19.
“We are also not given adequate protection for carrying out work at hospitals during the pandemic, with some being asked to switch from cleaning normal wards to cleaning Covid-19 wards.
“There are a lot of risks of Covid-19 spreading but employers are not giving them (cleaners) extra protection even now,” she said.
Danaletchimi added that some of them have complained that despite being tested for Covid-19, some cleaners were not given time off to quarantine and were instead asked to work because the employers feared a shortage of staff.
“These are some of the problems occurring during the pandemic,” she said, adding that some were also terminated unfairly.
Danaletchimi feels that the privatisation of hospital cleaners also meant that they were not entitled to benefits and remuneration regardless of their seniority or years of service. This includes annual pay raises, bonuses and increased annual or sick leave.
“So even if they work for 20 years they are treated as if they are new workers and do not get added employee benefits.”
Meanwhile, Yusni Mahnyok from the Johor division of JPKK, who has worked as a security guard for seven years, said workers under the contract system were often sidelined and intimidated.
“Employers do not consider workers’ welfare. We are not only treated like slaves but our right to speak up is also ignored.
“When we do speak up for our rights, like asking for annual leave or asking about our salary, we would get warning letters threatening us with termination,” he said, adding that this situation made many workers fear speaking up against the company.
Yusni said that during the pandemic, many of these subcontractors do not take into account their workers’ health and wellbeing.
“If contract workers can become permanent workers then at least our rights will be recognised in the future,” he said.
JPKK is currently running an online campaign to push for the abolishment of the contract system. Click here to sign the petition.