Police have arrested five hospital cleaners who protested against their union-busting employer outside Ipoh Hospital today, 2 June
The five janitors, who can be considered as frontliners as well for working in hospitals during a pandemic, are part of the National Union of Workers in Hospital Support and Allied Services (NUWHSAS), which represents those working in government hospitals in the northern states.
According to the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), the five were peacefully protesting outside the hospital against their employer Edgenta UEMS, before suddenly being picked up by the police.
Malaysiakini reported those who were arrested include NUWHSAS' executive secretary M Saraswathy, L Danaletchumy, and V Santhiran, as well as PSM members P Jothi and C Subramaniam @ Raja.
They were arrested under Section 186 of the Penal Code for obstructing a public servant in discharge of his public functions and Section 269 of the Penal Code for risk of spreading an infection while committing an act.
The protest was meant to raise awareness against their employer Edgenta UEMS, a government-linked company (GLC) that provides facility management services to companies
In a statement, PSM claimed Edgenta UEMS tried to repeatedly silence NUWHSAS members from carrying out union activities by threatening and attacking them.
It is alleged that Edgenta UEMS used tactics to deliberately to put worksite committee members in difficult situations, such as by changing their working hours and shifts without prior consent.
Employees also alleged that they were transferred to hospitals far away from their homes as a form of punishment for being an active member of the union.
Many were disallowed from working overtime to lower their earnings, while those who worked overtime were not paid for their extra hours.
It is also alleged that Edgenta UEMS supervisors constantly harassed them verbally and intimidated them with disciplinary action.
The janitors were not allowed to discuss anything in relation to the union, even during their break time.
PSM claimed that, worst of all, the janitors were not adequately protected while working in hospitals that dealt with COVID-19 cases
The statement alleged that employees were not given proper personal protective equipment (PPE) while cleaning COVID-19 wards. Face masks and gloves were also not sufficiently supplied.
They were also allegedly denied a RM600 special allowance provided to doctors and nurses, which was introduced under the economic stimulus package, and were only given a one-off RM300 payment.
This is not the first time Edgenta UEMS has been entangled in such a controversy since the Movement Control Order (MCO) began
Previously, in late March, another union called Kesatuan Pekerja Swasta Hospital Kerajaan alleged that the company prevented its employees from getting screened for COVID-19 in Teluk Intan Hospital.
At the time, over 39 healthcare officers were infected by the virus in the hospital.
However, the company issued a statement a day later, refuting claims that they were responsible for the mistreatment of their employees.
The company maintained its innocence by stating that it had complied with infection control protocols as set by the Ministry of Health.
On 25 March, seven janitors in Teluk Intan Hospital were allegedly denied COVID-19 screenings because their supervisor said no one will be able to do their jobs if they are down with the virus:
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