KUALA LUMPUR (April 17): MTUC secretary-general J Solomon has come out swinging against Azmin Ali's announcement that Socso funds would be used pay for the mandatory Covid-19 screening of employees who are allowed to operate during the movement control order (MCO), Malaysiakini reported today.

"MTUC is in full agreement with the minister on this measure. However, MTUC is aghast with the minister’s statement that Socso will pick up the tab for the compulsory screening which will cost millions of ringgit and further deplete Socso's dwindling coffers," said Solomon in a statement today cited by Malaysiakini.

He said that International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin and the government seem to have lost sight that Socso is a workers compensation fund which is run with monthly contributions from both workers and also employers.

"Migrant workers are also covered with employers contributing for them. Socso funds are meant to help injured or sick workers and their families in time of need.

"It is shocking that the government has no second thoughts on dipping into the hard-earned savings of poor workers to fund Covid-19 screenings which will benefit employers who get away scot-free from any burden of paying for the screenings of their own employees," said Solomon.

According to Malaysiakini, Azmin yesterday said the tests must be done at Socso panel clinics and that the cost will be borne by Socso.

"Employers applying to operate must ensure all their workers undergo screening at any of the 3,000 over Socso panel health clinics nationwide according to Health Ministry guidelines," he said.

Not mincing his words Solomon said that the Perikatan Nasional administration was blatantly treating Socso as its cash cow to fund pro-employers policies.

"These are workers needed by employers to restart making profits and yet it is Socso which has to pick up the bill to make that happen.

"This is blatantly unfair and lopsided. Funds meant for workers social protection and retirement savings should not be used to gain political mileage," said Solomon.

He also reminded Azmin that it was only some months back that Socso was forced to stop giving free dialysis treatment to certain contributors and it was only restored after a public outcry.

He also cited the allocation of RM500 million of Socso funds to build a state of art rehabilitation centre, saying that it should be funded by government funds,

According to Malaysiakini, Solomon also claimed that Socso was also reeling from some bad investments amounting to billions of ringgit in investments linked to purchase of prime land and IT systems which have not yielded any return for several years.

"We vehemently oppose this decision which is obviously made in the interest of the employers and not the poor workers who make the mandatory contribution for this fund from their blood, sweat and tears," he said.

Solomon had earlier hammered the move by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to allow EPF contributors to withdraw up to RM500 a month from Account 2 for the next 12 months beginning April 1, saying that the government was depleting the long-term savings of workers.

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