15 workers killed and 400 infected as Covid rages unabated in a semiconductor facility in Northen Johor, urge the MNC to demonstrate responsibilities and work with authorities to save lives and prevent further loss

A total of fifteen (15) workers were killed since the first Covid-19 casualty was first reported in mid-June in the STMicroelectronics (STM) manufacturing facility located at the Tanjung Agas Industrial Area in Tangkak District, Johor. Cumulative positive cases detected among employees reportedly exceeded four hundreds. As local communities continue to be shaken by the raging virus, both STM and the Health Department has yet to come forward with a clear explanation how the spread would be brought under control.

Since the first Covid case was first detected in STM in March 30th 2020, news have been spreading like wildfire about more and more workers getting infected every week. In July 9th 2021, Ministry of Health confirmed the existence of a cluster called “Kluster Persiaran Agas” (named after the address of STM Facility) with 18 positve cases when the first round of screening was conducted. [1]

Now, we were informed that that the number of infected employees already hit four hundred excluding friends and relatives who were indirectly infected. Since last year, although some employees have been working from home, large number of workers especially those in the production floors continue to work on site. Only when confirmed cases were detected, we were told the facility would partially close for a few days for disinfection.

STMicroelectronics is a multinational semiconductor giant listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: STM). The group has posted exceptional financial results in the last two years despite the global pandemic crisis. According to its 2020 Annual Report, STM’s net income was USD 1.11 billion on top of a total revenue of USD 10.2 billion. The current market cap of STM is approximately USD 30 billion which is equivalent to 125 billion ringgit [2], larger than the Maybank which is largest publicly listed company in Malaysia.

We strongly believed that a multinational semiconductor giant like STM must demonstrate corporate social responsibilities to protect lives of all employees. In addition, the company is also expected to contribute positively towards fighting Covid-19 for the communities it operates within i.e. Tangkak and Muar in Johor.

Regretfully, however, is the fact the management of STM did not step forward to with public actions and explanations despite hundreds of its employees were infected and fifteen precious lives lost. STM production lines, as we were reliably informed, are still running with little interruption. Therefore, we call upon STM top management to immediately review and revamp your counter infection SOPs and policies in order to prevent the situation from getting from bad to worse.

We asked for STM to make public its mitigation plan to curb the spread of virus, including measures taken to ensure physical distance among production workers, disinfection practices, how to further protect high risk workers with co-morbidities, the progress of vaccination and business continuity plan. For hundreds of employees and families who have unfortunately fallen ill and in some cases, losing their loved ones, are there concrete help or compensation being offered to alleviate their sufferings? We want STM to respond immediately to these requests and questions.

In adddition, the management must also work hand in hand with local health authorities to ensure timely and accurate information sharing and tangible actions taken to curb the virus spread. The management must also get the unions involved in the collective effort to bring the situation under control.

Thousands of employees working for STM reside across the districts of Muar, Tangkak and Segamat in norther Johor. Over the years it is indisputable that the company has made immense contribution to our local economy. Yet with Covid still raging across the country, the Persiaran Agas cluster continues to hit our communities in Northern Johor hard and deep. The magnitude of devastation remains unabated. We urged Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to step in together to investigate and intervene in the most urgent and serious manner. Help STM to bring Covid infection under control as soon as possible to save lives and spare the employees and locals from living in fear.

Ee Chin Li
SA for Tangkak
Ng Yak Howe
SA for Bentayan
Lim Eng Guan
DAP Johor State Committee Member
Joint media statement by Ee Chin Li, Ng Yak Howe and Lim Eng Guan in Johor Bahru on Thursday, 29th July 2021