Don’t penalise workers for Penang water cut, says MTUC

Don’t penalise workers for Penang water cut, says MTUC

Facing work stoppage, employers mandating public holiday work, deducting annual leave, says body.

THE MALAYSIAN Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has been receiving complaints that employers are resorting to work replacement, annual leave deduction and even no-pay due to an extended shutdown during a statewide scheduled water cut from January 10.

From reports received, employers are planning work replacements on public holidays that would fall in the coming months, said K. Veeriah, secretary of MTUC’s Penang division.

“Alternatively, they are scheduling to replace the number of hours lost during the shutdown by having working hours extended on other normal working days,” he said.

MTUC is of the view that it is unfair to impose any form of replacement working hours or require work on public holidays in substitution thereof.

He said that it would mean workers would have to work longer hours as replacement. The same would be true when employees are forced to work on recognised public holidays. Enforcing annual leave during the said shutdown would also deprive workers of their annual leave entitlement, said Veeriah.

He stressed that workers should not be penalised for something which is not their fault.

Profiteering practices

As the state braces for the maximum four-day disruption in water supply to enable crucial repairs and upgrading of old pipes, it seems to be hit by a cascade of problems as consequence.

The water cut will be the biggest in recent memory as up to 600,000 consumers would be affected for about 72 hours, with others needing to wait for restored supply a little longer.

The scheduled shutdown has brought a host of challenges in ways the state has never experienced – from the labour complications to shortage of water containers to anticipated traffic congestion.

There is an acute surge in demand for water containers. Due to limited supply, many consumers are forced to buy them at insane prices.

Penang Consumer Protection Society president Datuk K. Koris Atan urged the authorities to crack down on those engaging in profiteering practices.

He said that the enforcement division of the Domestic Trade and Living Costs Ministry should patrol premises to ensure such deals do not happen, including surveying the online space to prevent profiteering from happening.

This should also include those offering accommodation in safe havens for water supply, such as in Tanjung Bungah, a beach resort area.

Hoteliers should not simply hike up room rates during that period, he said.

Dam water level worrying

Many residents plan to leave during the disruption, while those who stay behind are concerned about whether they will have adequate water storage.

99 water tankers will begin heading into Penang in the next two days to prepare to aid residents who need water.

To compound worries, one of oldest manmade reservoirs in the country, the Ayer Itam Dam, has recorded a drastic drop in water levels, from 83% a month ago to about 66.7%.

This is due to surging demand on the dam as the state faced an unscheduled water disruption last month for four days when an underwater pipe was damaged at Sg Prai, rendering that source useless during the crisis.

This now means that the dam only has the capacity to supply water for the next 66 days, unless cloud seeding is done or the catchment area sees a rainy spell.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said that he was informed that the incident in Sg Prai caused the decline of the water level at the Ayer Itam Dam, as the production of treated water from it surged to about 22 million litres per day (MLD.)

Also, during the Sg Prai pipe leakage incident, the Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) had to increase production of treated water to 40 MLD to compensate for disrupted supply in several areas.

Chow nonetheless assured that supply would last for at least two months while PBAPP works to increase the dam’s storage capacity.

– The Vibes, January 7, 2024

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