The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) is concerned about the ongoing economic and political issues the country has been facing in recent times. With the ringgit depreciating against major currencies, the cost of imports have gone up and as a direct consequence of this there has been a further rise in the cost of living.
I say further because the cost of living has increased tremendously for the workers of this country over the last year. The economic figures used such as inflation and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) does not reflect the real rise in the cost of living.
A visit to a nearby mamak stall, comparing price increases over the last one year, will tell us as to how much prices of a simple meal have gone up. When other essentials such as rent, schooling for children, transport, etc., are also taken into account, Malaysian workers especially those from the lower income group are badly affected.
A big concern is the recent report that foreign investors could pull up another billion dollars out of our bond markets this week. It is really bad that investor sentiment is weakening, where this is being attributed to political issues. Clearly, the government needs to do something drastic to overcome this issue.
Apart from just the weakening foreign investment sentiment, the morale of Malaysian workers is also being affected as we are fast losing trust in the government’s ability to handle matters transparently and in the interest of all Malaysians.
In such an economic climate, jobs are impacted and the rate of retrenchment rises. Employers are also taking advantage of this situation through various means. The government, through the Human Resources Ministry, should intervene to ensure that employers are not abusing the system. Many issues which the MTUC has raised to the ministry and the minister have remained unaddressed.
In these times, the MTUC would like for the government to declare whether foreign workers are still being brought into the country and make an open declaration of the numbers.
The system needs an overhaul and the government should step up to the plate. MTUC would like to invite the human resources minister and his officers to a dialogue to discuss workers’ issues in the country. There is also a need to handle the political and economic issues that are fast dragging the country down.
N GOPAL KISHNAM is secretary-general of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).