KUALA LUMPUR: The government has been urged to protect workers' interests as employers ramp up warnings of a double-digit hike in unemployment in the coming months.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said it fears that employees will become 'sitting ducks' following the dire warning from employers.
On May 26, MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon stated that the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) had said over two million workers are set to lose their jobs after Hari Raya, including fresh graduates; and that 610,000 workers had become unemployed before March this year.
He added that on Monday, the MEF yet again warned that the nation faces a five per cent unemployment rate, which is likely to go as high as 12 per cent before the middle of next year, by far the worst in 30 years.
Solomon said the national umbrella body for employers made the dire warnings on weak economic sentiment on the domestic front and the global level due to the Covid-19 pandemic fallout. Thus, the MEF has claimed that employers in Malaysia have no choice but to downsize drastically by laying off workers.
"In the face of such grim prospects for workers, the government must do all it can to protect the livelihood of employees, as most of them are from the B40 hardcore poor who are already struggling to sustain themselves and their families," he said today.
He added that the Human Resources Ministry (MoHR) must convene an urgent meeting of the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) to plug ongoing retrenchments and prevent more which are in the pipeline as the MEF had warned.
Solomon said that the MEF's warning only shows that the various initiatives under the Prihatin and Penjana stimulus packages are not enough for employers.
He said unemployment will continue to soar despite billions of ringgit in public funds being spent on various programmes, including the much-touted wage subsidy scheme.
"A 12 per cent unemployment rate roughly translates to 2.05 million local and migrant workers out of jobs. This will have a devastating impact on the government's plans to kick start the economy.
"What is also clear is that unless the government comes out with more effective policies, workers will continue to be left in the lurch and at the mercy of overzealous employers keen to carry out retrenchments," he said.
Solomon said the MTUC remains convinced of the government's noble objectives in introducing the Prihatin and Penjana stimulus packages to help workers retain their jobs amid an economic slowdown.
But he said the government needs to think out of the box and formulate new approaches to ensure workers retain their jobs.
"Some of these new measures may include a carrot and stick approach. The government has to decide on the size of the carrot and the stick, to make sure both are effective enough to minimise job losses and the economic turnaround is not impeded by massive retrenchments," he said.
There is valuable input to be obtained from the MEF and MTUC in helping the government to shape new and more effective initiatives to ensure that millions of workers are not deprived of their livelihood and sincere employers can sustain their businesses without laying off employees, he added.
"As for the MTUC, we will push for the government to introduce Emergency Employment Regulations, to prohibit employers from laying off workers for a specific period. Although many employers have balked at this proposal, it should be discussed at the NLAC to give us a chance to defend it with sound reasons," he said.
It has also been suggested that the government continue subsidising salaries for workers as is being done for nine months in the United Kingdom and Singapore.
"We urge the MoHR and the government in general not to make light or trivialise MEF's warning of unemployment hitting 12 per cent in the coming months by saying it has the necessary mechanisms in place to deal with it.
"Employers are telling the government that it is not doing enough and rema
in convinced on the need to let their workers go.
"As such, in the absence of further government intervention, workers, especially lowly paid ones, face the real risk of losing their jobs if they have not already. We urge the government not to let them become easy pickings for employers obsessed with their bottom line", Solomon said.
Source : https://www.nst.com.my/…/govt-must-do-more-protect-workers-…