A Magistrate’s Court has ordered the police to release five hospital cleaners and activists arrested for holding a peaceful protest outside Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital (HRPB) in Ipoh. The Magistrate’s Court denied a request for a four-day remand.
The five were part of a protest by the National Union of Workers in Hospital Support and Allied Services (NUWHSAS) which represents cleaners in government hospitals in the northern states. They were held after protesting against what they claimed were union-busting tactics by their employer Edgenta UEMS.
“This morning, police failed to obtain a remand order for the five unionists detained. The police requested a four-day remand, but lawyers representing the detainees informed the magistrate Azuratul Akmar that there is no need for further remand as all statements have been taken,” PSM secretary-general A Sivarajan told Malaysiakini yesterday.
“Thus the magistrate refused the remand request and ordered the police to release them as soon as fingerprints and other records are settled. The magistrate has ordered them to be released by 6pm today,” he said.
MAGISTRATE REFUSES FURTHER REMAND REQUEST,
Police failed to obtain remand order of the 5 unionist detained. The police requested for a 4 day remand, however after our lawyers put up a fight Magistrate refused the remand request and ordered the police to release by 6pm today. pic.twitter.com/ajPbWUDMwP
— Sivarajan (@ASivarajan) June 3, 2020
He said PSM is still concerned that the five unionists, including NUWHSAS executive secretary M Saraswathy, could still be charged in the future.
“We demand the police to not charge them, as they complied with all movement control order SOP’s during their picket unlike the cramped lock-up conditions they were subjected to last night,” he added.
Sivarajan thanked concerned citizens and organisations who had voiced their opposition to what he called “blatant union-busting tactics affecting frontline hospital cleaning workers at a time when their services are needed most.”
The five are being investigated under Section 186 of the Penal Code for obstructing a public servant in discharge of his public functions as well as Section 269 of the Penal Code which covers unlawfully or negligently committing an act that is likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life.
The court’s decision came after a few Members of Parliament and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) decried the “cruel” detention of hospital cleaners, who are considered as frontliners as well
Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah said the arrest should not be taken lightly as, “Silencing the voices of frontliners is unfair and cruel, and shows the total lack of respect and care by employers towards those already risking their lives daily to protect the rest of us from COVID-19.”
Maria called out Edgenta UEMS for exploiting their employees, saying hospital cleaners employed by them were not adequately supplied with essential protective equipment while working in hospitals that dealt with COVID-19 cases.
They are also being investigated under Regulation 7(1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures within the Infected Local Areas) Regulations 2020, which prohibits gatherings for various purposes.
Their protest was to express concerns over what they claimed to be poor treatment received by hospital cleaners from Edgenta UEMS including not being given enough essential protective equipment, denying the union their rights, and forcing workers to change working hours and shifts.
Edgenta UEMS has allegedly not given hospital cleaners enough essential protective equipment, denying the union their rights, and forcing workers to change working hours and shifts.
In a statement made available to SAYS, UEM Edgenta assured that it has implemented actions and safety measures to safeguard the health and safety of its employees
The company denied the accusation that it did not provide sufficient protection to its employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[Our] implementation of safety protocols are aligned with the strict standards set by the Ministry of Health for all hospitals and healthcare facilities in Malaysia treating COVID-19 patients,” it said.
UEM Edgenta added that it has various communication channels for employees to “promote effective communications” and stated that it is committed to resolving internal matters impacting its employees.
However, the brief statement did not mention nor deny allegations that it had deployed union-busting tactics to silence its employees.
News Credit: Malaysiakini
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