MTUC: Govt’s economic expectations at odds with reality

Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) logo

By Adrian Lim

KUCHING, May 31: MTUC urges the federal government to address the problems of unemployment and job cuts which it considers much more dire than what a recent statement by the Finance Minister appears to picture.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general J Solomon in a statement noted chief statistician Datuk Seri Mohd Uzir Mahidin recently warned of the risk of social unrest if no efforts are taken to address the problem of unemployment which will worsen when new graduates enter the job market in the second half of this year.

He also noted that many employers including small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have been talking about massive lay off exercises being ramped up in the coming weeks, including a prediction by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) that up to two million people are expected to lose their jobs after the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations.

He pointed out that this was at odds with Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz’s statement that nearly 70 per cent of the worker force has returned to their jobs in the various sectors and that Malaysia’s economy is set to rebound next year, after recording negative growth this year.

Solomon believed the massive job losses are partly due to the federal government’s refusal to introduce the Emergency Employment Regulations (EER) proposed by MTUC which would bar employers from retrenching workers for a specific period.

Instead, he opined that the federal government is seen as only keen to engage employers, rather than protect the livelihood of workers.

Consequently, due to the absence of the EER, Solomon believed workers were laid off from the very first day the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced while employers went on to receive billions of ringgit in grants and soft loans under the comprehensive economic stimulus package unveiled by the federal government in March.

“MTUC’s own feedback shows that the one-off cash aid given to the rakyat as part of the RM250 bilion Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) stimulus package has dried up, rendering many workers who had lost their jobs without any money to support their families.

“Their problems will only worsen and their needs are immediate, not even short-term.

“MTUC urges government leaders to stop blowing their own trumpet on the one-off payment as the funds was speedily used up after it was disbursed.

“The one-off cash handout was akin to giving workers a single fish when they desperately need much more to sustain and survive this pandemic crisis.

“The EER would have helped ensure job security for every worker in this country, at least for a specific period. Instead, many workers have been retrenched and have virtually no savings to run their households.

“As such, MTUC finds the government’s resilience phase under its six ‘R’ action plan to mitigate Covid-19 as having failed to insulate workers from the devastating economic impact of Covid-19 and shield them from unscrupulous employers who used the pandemic as an excuse to carry out massive retrenchments and pay cuts, “ Solomon added.

MTUC also called on the federal government to engage in discussions with the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) which comprises the government, MTUC and MEF representatives as equal stakeholders.

Solomon opined NLAC is the best forum to make recommendations which addresses the needs of the business community and the welfare of workers. — DayakDaily