Covid-19: MTUC urges govt to protect rights, welfare of low wage earners

Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) logo

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KUCHING, March 17: Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) hopes the new Perikatan Nasional government will not delay showing its resolve to champion the rights and welfare of low wage earners.

“There is no better opportunity to do so than now, when they are facing such dire challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The PN government is rest assured that MTUC will extend all cooperation to ensure the Covid-19 is effectively contained and workers are not shortchanged in their Movement Control Order.

“Most importantly at this critical juncture, all Malaysians must coordinate and collectively discharge their responsibilities towards their government initiatives in containing the large scale spreading of Covid-19 in the true Malaysian spirit. In that endeavour, “the haves should share their wealth with the have-nots” in simple terms,” according to MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon in a statement issued today.

He lauded the government’s move to implement a two-week restricted movement order nationwide as a decisive measure necessary to contain the spread of the deadly Covid-19.

“If such containment measure had not been taken at this point in time the impact would be disastrous and irreversible and Covid-19 would have snatched away lives of people and eroded the economy far more than what we could imagine,” he added.

Solomon also agreed that the restricted movement order is not a lockdown but rather a strict course of action to impose large scale social distancing, without denying people access to their daily essential needs.

“MTUC sees the movement control order as necessary to delay and contain the spread of the disease. Although the movement control order is not a lockdown, its implementation can trigger mass panic and public anxiety if it is not properly administered. As such, key issues must be tackled from the onset,” he added.

Solomon pointed out that over the next 24 hours, thousands of workplaces, deemed non-essential by the government, will close until March 31.

“Daily paid workers are not just in the private sector but are also employed in various government departments. This is the golden opportunity for the employers to prove their sincerity towards the workers’ wellbeing by ensuring no loss of income to any worker and the nation’s stability. The government must also move quickly to rein in the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) which is refusing to pay employees of companies shut down for the next two weeks.

“This is most inhumane on the part of the MEF whose members will directly benefit from the government’s RM20 billion stimulus package and yet have no qualms about leaving their workers high and dry, without income. We call on the government to convene an urgent meeting with MEF and MTUC to address this pressing issue. Workers must be assured of an adequate safety net when the shutdown is executed,” he emphasised.

Solomon also highlighted that the restricted movement order also affects 300,000 Malaysians employed in Singapore.

“These workers need urgent answers on whether they will be allowed to travel to the island republic or take paid leave. There must be a G-to-G dialogue between Malaysia and Singapore to address this issue urgently for more clarity. If the welfare of the 15 million workers in Malaysia can be given the utmost priority, MTUC is confident the government will have effectively dealt with any spillover from the movement control order.

“However, based on the announcements by the Prime Minister thus far, it is clear that many low wage earners will suffer the brunt of the Covid-19 economic downturn in Malaysia,” he declared.

Solomon asserted that the government has yet to announce a new and more equitable, balanced and realistic stimulus package that can address the needs of these workers.

“MTUC will have separate dialogue with the government to address this issue as we want to support the government during this period for the benefit of the nation. What would help the workers significantly is a moratorium on their housing and vehicle bank loans until they get back on their feet.

“Our banking industry is solid and can easily do this. MTUC lauds the decision by Bank Rakyat, SME Bank and Tekun Nasional to waive monthly loan payments for six months for B40 and M40 workers. The banking industry must immediately step in to discharge their obligations towards helping these workers and MTUC has written to the Association of Banks in Malaysia to consider the deferment of the instalments on housing, vehicle and education loans,” added Solomon. — DayakDaily