By Rani Rasiah
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--The government is among the worst employers as far as its lower-rung contract workers are concerned. The misery of over 200,000 contract cleaners and security guards at the premises of the two largest employers, the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry, is testimony to this.
The 4-day Motorbike Convoy by the NUWHSAS (National Union of Workers in Hospital Support and Allied Services), currently making its way to Putrajaya from Penang is an attempt to draw the attention of the Health Minister, YB Khairy Jamaluddin, to the plight of contract cleaners at government hospitals in the country.
Ministers and the political elite always talk about helping people escape poverty but they need to know that the government is doing just the opposite with its contract system.
Which is why the hospital workers union, NUWHSAS, is asking for the abolition of the contract system. Besides, is it even legal to use the contract system for jobs that are permanent in nature, such as cleaning, gardening and providing security in hospitals, schools and other departments?
Not only are government contract workers oppressed by an unfair contract system but also by the contractors chosen by the government. One complaint of the hospital contract workers is about union busting by their employers, Edgenta UEMS which is linked to Khazanah, a reputable GLIC whose research institute regularly highlights its findings on poverty and poverty indicators.
Unions may be considered unnecessary if the government takes an interest in the welfare and rights of the workers. But the government has a way of remaining silent even when its handpicked contractors openly oppress the workers in government premises.
How will these workers feed their families and pay rent? The district education offices (PPD) and the state education offices (JPN) have been made aware, and complaints have also been made by the Jaringan Pekerja Kontrak Kerajaan or JPKK (Network of Government Contract Workers) to the Education Ministry.
It is the hope of the workers that YB Khairy will meet them and hear their grouses when they arrive at the Health Ministry in Putrajaya. They are asking for a change of bad policy, and hoping that is reason enough for a concerned government to act.
*Rani Rasiah is a Central Committee of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)*