Malaysia is one of Asia's biggest employers of foreign labour. But recently, cases of deaths, abuse and forced labour have come to light. What is going on? Who is protecting these migrant workers?
As we are at the last day of 2015, Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) is very concern with the raise in drastic cost of living which is mainly caused by the implementation of GST and the weakening Ringgit.
The problem is further worsening when our wages has not rising in tandem leading to a drop in standard of living. Such a situation will lead to higher income disparity and ultimately social unrest.
With our wages at only 32% of GDP, ordinary Malaysians’ ability to cope with rising prices is hamstrung. While we cannot wholly blame the government, it must be acknowledged that the nation’s economic and labour policy over the past 50 years has led us down this road. The government’s response is haphazard and knee jerk. Formation of high level committee as announced by Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is very crucial right now based on the rising cost of living.
Deputy Prime Minister’s announcement that he will chair a newly formed Committee to take rising prices is an example. The Committee will comprise of six ministries. However the Human Resources Ministry is not mentioned. How can we takle rising prices (which is inevitable in any economy), without takling low wages and low income?
MTUC is willing and is ever ready to give input and idea to the Committee in formulating strategies to cope with the issue high living cost. The employers also have to play their crucial roles and stop blaming the government.
Malaysia labour productivity has increased much higher than wages increase the past decade. With wages at only 32% of GDP, there is no question that employers can definitely afford to increase wages. Yet the government Minimum Wage Policy is one step forward and two steps back evidenced by the one and a half year delay of the minimum wage review.
The presence of at least four million and some reports say six millions foreign workers – half of our total local workforce, contributes to the malaise. MTUC strongly feels that without so many cheap foreign workers, wages would have gone up way higher and would have help to absolve the increase in prices.
Worse, whatever the foreign workers earned is sent back to their home country, stifling local demand and small business. The only people who gain are the connected agents and irresponsible parties.
MTUC note that the Federal Government especially the Deputy Prime Minister finally acknowledged the lop sided privitisation contracts signed by the previous leadership (under the former prime minister, namely Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad). If so, we urge the current leadership of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to renegotiate and reformulate all contracts that were signed and still under implementation in order to reduce the burden of the people.
As we stated in earlier statement, the MTUC is disappointed with the suggestion by a Deputy Minister that Malaysian should take more than one job and workers to start businesses. He also tells us to wake up early avoid paying tolls. A lot of Malaysians are already doing more than one job. Little did he realise that unless our jobs earn as much as his, we still find it difficult to cope even if we have three jobs at the minimum wage of just RM900 a month.
Workers going into business may even add to rising cost of living as in this country business, big or small can indiscrimitae raise prices at their whim and fancies. We cannot depend on prcve control enforcement officers. This only increase opportunities for corruption.
Again MTUC call for a systematic of development of trade unions to boost wages and productivity and to develop the consumer movement so that consumers can effectively force bussineses to compete.
As we moving to new year 2016, MTUC strongly request the Federal Government to revisit the foreign workers policy. In line with Eleventh Malaysia Plan, policies should plan by the government not to depend on migrant workers. Bringing in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers should stop immediately.
The year 2016 is going to be a bleak year for workers in Malaysia. The Federal Government must come up with strategies to uplift the living standard.
MTUC wishes that 2016 will be a better year.
N. Gopal Kishnam
Address: Wisma MTUC,10-5, Jalan USJ 9/5T, 47620 Subang Jaya,Selangor | Tel: 03-80242953 | Fax: 03-80243225 | Email: email@example.com