Aside from medical professionals, santiation workers have also been at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19. Rita Santaran is one such worker who is at risk of exposing herself to the deadly virus, reports Malaysiakini.
Rita is one of the thousands of hospital sanitation workers who perform a crucial role to ensure that the patients and medical staff are always in a sterile environment.
Unfortunately, workers like Rita have lesser benefits. The salary for sanitation workers are the same, regardless of how long one has been doing it for – the minimum wage of RM1,100. The remaining allowances and benefits are up to their respective contractors.
Rita decided to fight for the rights of such workers and lost her job in the midst of a takeover, although the contractor, UEM Edgenta, told Malaysiakini that she was indeed offered the chance to continue her employment.
In the early years of nationhood, cleaners in government hospitals were part of the civil service. This was until then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched the national privatisation policy in 1983.
At that time, the government decided to transfer the ‘non-professional’ services under public agencies to the private contractors – this included cleaning and maintenance works.
As a contract worker over the past seven years, Rita has gone through three different contractors and only one of them raised her salary – by RM50 – in 2015.
The former chairperson of a hospital cleaners’ union in Perak and a single mother said, “We won’t know what disease the patient has contracted. Maybe they have infectious diseases and the waste we clean up, the urine, the vomit, all of these could spread the virus.”
Rita,was elected as Kesatuan Pekerja-Pekerja Swasta Perkhidmatan Sokongan di Hospital-Hospital Kerajaan Semenanjung Malaysia (KPSPSHKSM) union branch chairperson for her hospital.
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