Recent news of the death of a young foreign Nepali security guard due to Covid-19 is regretful and should have been prevented
According to Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the 29-year old was already in the late stage of the infection when he was hospitalised, which begs the question why no early action was taken?
It seems that we have disregarded International Labour Organization (ILO)
declarations on equality through decent working conditions that we agreed to be part of in 2019. Decent work requires conditions of ecosystems that govern it.
This requires social awareness, competence and responsibility among employers with effective oversight by the Government.
According to the ILO declaration, decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives.
It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.
In my conversations with people of various industries I hear about incidences where foreign workers who are sick are not given immediate medical attention sometimes leading to unnecessary deaths.
Many of these foreign workers do not possess their own transportation and have to walk long distances to seek medical attention. They cannot afford to fall sick because they cannot afford hospitals charges which are higher for foreigners.
This clearly violates equality which is ingrained in the principles of decent work. In the context of Covid-19, the pertinent question is how many more foreign workers have been infected just like this security guard? Was he the only one admitted at the last minute where he was not able to be saved?
One also has to keep in mind that the health of Malaysian workers who work with foreign workers have been put in jeopardy due to this neglect. Corporate companies that employ foreign workers should be thoroughly assessed to provide proper housing facilities and ensure the living conditions of foreign workers are well taken care of.
It is imperative that response to emergency situations must be prioritised to prevent similar negligence that causes the death of the 29 year old Nepali worker.
In 2019, I led Malaysia in signing the country’s first Decent Work Country
Programme for 2019-2025 which set to promote Decent Work for sustainable development and accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). https://bit.ly/3oSAX1L
The government can look to that signed MOU and in that spirit also allow ILO to collaborate with national research institutes towards developing and implementing balanced working time policies that can protect workers’ health, benefit their wellbeing and work-life balance, and promote sustainable enterprises as well.
M. Kula Segaran
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Barat, Perak
Former Human Resources Minister, Malaysia