Not much to celebrate on Labour Day

Mohammad Ibrahim Hamid

KUCHING: Workers all over the country will not have much to celebrate on Labour Day this year in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, says Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak chairman Mohamad Ibrahim.

He said workers were in the front line fighting the pandemic as healthcare workers, law enforcers and those in the essential and exempted services, and were working under tremendous stress and high risk of being infected.

“It is very sad that the Covid-19 pandemic situation is getting worse in the country, especially in Sarawak, which has recorded one of highest numbers of positive cases in the country despite (the fact that) we are sparsely populated,” he said in his Labour Day message today.

He said that despite the proclamation of an emergency, ostensibly to fight the pandemic, the situation had gotten worse. 

“Exemptions from quarantine are continuing to be given to ministers and other VIPs, with a false sense of priority.

“It is incredulous decisions like this that leave Malaysians, especially workers, with a sense of despair.”

He said it was inevitable that workers were facing the brunt of the economic fallout due to the pandemic.

“Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs and/or been forced to take unpaid leave or salary cuts.  

“It will be very challenging for businesses to pick up resulting in companies having to close or to reduce operations and consequently retrench workers. This will affect all sectors.”

He added that since the Employment Insurance Scheme was implemented only in 2018, the benefits were minimal with an average of only half a month’s salary for six months.

“If not for some employer groups’ undying objection, the scheme could have started as early as 2010 and would have built up sufficient funds to offer a more comprehensive safety net.”

Ibrahim said government assistance to workers in the private sector was also not enough.

“Workers are forced to dig into their own Employee’s Provident Fund savings, which are meant for retirement, to survive and to pay off debts.”