Malaysiakini Letter

Time to end employer-employee master-servant relationship

Ronald Benjamin  |  Published:

LETTER | With “new Malaysia” in place, there have been various demands by stakeholders to ensure their voices are heard by the authorities.

Keeping in this mind the Association for Community and Dialogue (Acid) organised a labour colloquium on the Nov 23 in Ipoh.

The voice of labour cannot be addressed in isolation, it has to have an approach that supports the element of democratic rights and consensus grounded in partnership instead of the current master-servant relationship.

The culture of a master-servant relationship is clearly revealed in the national percentage of distribution of income, where wealth has been significantly concentrated in the hand of corporate owners.

According to Pemandu's Economic Transformation Plan Annual Report 2010, the distribution of national income is 28 percent for employees and five percent for government, while corporate owners grabbed 67 percent.

In 2015, the 11th Malaysia Plan stated that the labour income share had increased to 33.6 percent in 2013. The previous BN administration committed to increasing the labour income share to 40 percent by 2020.

The report argued that the upward revision of the minimum wage was a strategy to raise the labour income share, which can also improve labour productivity.

The average labour income for the respective geographical regions is as follows: Africa (37.8 percent), Americas (49.3 percent), Asia (42.3 percent), Europe (63.2 percent) and Oceania (57.2 percent). This means the labour income share of Malaysia is among the lowest in the world.

Such an inequitable income gap necessitates a new approach to employer–employee relations. Acid strongly believes in the importance of partnership among stakeholders instead of the current employment context and its laws that still holds on to master-servant relations in addressing issues related to income.

The pivotal focus of the colloquium was on labour issues and how stakeholders could help in enhancing workers' democracy, income and human capital development.

The panellists comprised representatives from the MEF, MTUC NGOs, MPs and community leaders who addressed labour issues from various angles.

The importance of hiring more women into the workforce and empowering them was also emphasised. The colloquium was officiated by the Minister of Human Resources M Kulasegaran.

Acid would want to initiate more forums of this nature to encourage partnership between employers, employees and the government that would help prepare the necessary transitional foundation towards a higher value and more prosperous economy.

Such a transition is not possible without a concrete partnership that breaks the boundaries of master-servant relationships to help bridge the income gap in the country.

The writer is executive secretary, Association for Community and Dialogue.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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