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By Adrian Lim
KUCHING, June 6: The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) is concerned about the lack of transparency on the recipients for the economic stimulus packages announced by the federal government recently.
MTUC secretary general J Solomon said MTUC’s biggest fear with regard to the short term economic recovery plan known as Penjana (Pelan Jana Semula Ekonomi Negara) announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday is the scant details the government has offered to ensure transparency in disbursing the billions of ringgit allocated for the business community.
He observed that the federal government has neither disclose any information on its plans to ensure that employers who benefit from Penjana, live up to expectation by ensuring workers kept their jobs nor the subsidies meant for workers goes to them and not elsewhere.
“In the three economic stimulus packages earlier known as Bantuan Prihation Nasional (BPN) totaling more than RM250 billion, neither the government nor Bank Negara made public any details on who received the massive amount of public money by way of financial assistance and wage subsidies that were dished out to businesses, especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
MTUC demands that the Finance Minister (Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz) and Bank Negara publish a list of those beneficiaries for the sake of public transparency.
“What the public and MTUC do know is that despite all the handouts to the business community, thousands of workers have been rendered jobless and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has warned that more than two million workers will be unemployed in the coming weeks.
“Despite the billions poured in to help businesses, Malaysia is heading into recession in the next four to six months, according to the Statistics Department.
“As such, without being a wet blanket, MTUC has to treat the objectives laid out in Penjana with caution and apprehension until the issue of public transparency is addressed,” he said in a statement today.
He opined that the short term economic recovery plan unveiled by Muhyiddin could just be as laden with goodies which will appeal to the business community.
However, Solomon asserted that similar to the previous economic stimulus packages, Penjana will fail to live up to its lofty promises on ensuring workers are protected, especially the thousands who have been laid off despite employers benefiting from massive government assistance in interest fee loans, outright grants and wage subsidies.
He noted Muhyiddin had declared that more than 83 per cent of the workforce or nearly 13 million workers have returned to their jobs during the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) period.
Solomon believed such figures disclosed by the prime minister only mask the reality on the ground which is that hundreds of thousands of households have lost their livelihood and are in dire straits.
Therefore, Solomon opined that the 83 per cent figure quoted by Muhyiddin up from 70 per cent cited by the finance minister about a week ago was misleading.
He believed many workers who lost their jobs were in fact victims of unscrupulous employers, despite the fact that some of them are blue chip companies and international conglomerates.
Solomon emphasised that the Labour Department’s failure to crack down on unscrupulous employers have spurred other employers to follow suit.
Unless there is a concerted attempt to crackdown on those employers, Solomon believed the unscrupulous employers will simply continue to pocket the financial assistance from BPN and Penjana while sacking workers at every opportunity.
Solomon gathered that 62 workers from a cement company were retrenched recently on the ground that the factory needed to be upgraded.
He gathered that the Human Resources Director told MTUC that the Labour Department had given the green light for the totally unwarranted retrenchment exercise.
To substantiate his argument, Solomon noted the case was one example of financially sound companies laying off workers arbitrarily and yet stand to benefit from the tax holidays and tax grants given by the government under Penjana.
“MTUC fears far more workers will lose their jobs compared to number of job opportunities that is envisaged by the government by rolling out Penjana without strict enforcement by the Labour Department and even the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) to ensure employers fully comply with the conditions attached to the financial goodies,” he added. —DayakDaily