SEOUL, July 20 (Korea Bizwire) — Six months have passed since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in South Korea.
The ceaseless effort from medical staff nationwide has resulted in a relatively low number of infections and lower fatality rate in the country compared to many of its peers.
Among the many unsung heroes in the fight against the coronavirus, we should applaud the efforts made by janitors working at medical institutions in charge of a variety of different tasks.
Many experts argue that the coronavirus has exposed a serious problem where the right to work among janitors is not being protected at all.
A janitor’s fragile employment status raises the fear and risk for infection.
Janitors at medical institutions are mostly irregular workers hired by a subcontractor. They are exempted from all welfare benefits available only to regular medical staff.
In many cases, they have not even been able to obtain protective masks.
Although an increasing number of hospital janitors are being recognized as regular workers as advocacy groups in national hospitals continue to fight for regular employment, most janitors are still struggling with unstable employment.
The Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union reported that 64.5 percent of hospital janitors were hired by subcontractors, while 23.4 percent were hired as part-time or contractual workers.
The janitors are not calling out to ensure that at least a small lounge for them to survive the prolonged coronavirus situation is provided.
“The weather is getting hot, and we don’t even have a shower room. We are wet with our own sweat by the time we leave work,” said a 53-year old janitor working at a local general hospital.
The transparent exchange of information is crucial to prevent the pandemic spread, some say.
“For us irregular workers, we are never informed of who is infected with the coronavirus,” said a 61-year old janitor working at a university hospital in Seoul.
“I wish there was a way to exchange information so that we can be prepared as well.”
H. M. Kang (email@example.com)