Come May 1, how will we mark Labour Day?

JD Lovrenciear

Modified 29 Apr 2019, 1:55 am

LETTER | Will we be resolute enough to go beyond the preachings and the demands or is it going to be a continuation of our known hallmark of 'all form without substance'?

What is critically lacking in our understanding of 'labour' is a philosophy. A national philosophy that resonates both in the public and private sectors of work.

Work is a blessing. Or, as in our local context, work must be seen and believed as our 'rezeki'.

When we study our national attitude to work, it is an easy guess that many do not see work as a blessing. Rather it is either an opportunity to exploit or a burden and drudgery to fulfil.

Despite over six decades of self-governance, we are unable to rise to the globally recommended minimum wage structure.

Despite giving Malaysians government employment - and largely benefited by the majority race in the country to the extent that we have the world's highest civil servants is to citizens' ratio - productivity is a huge concern.

Discipline and accountability are not our national, human capital's assets, which, to a large extent, explains why corruption has seeped deep into the terracotta of government employees at all levels.

The work conditions that civil servants enjoy today are far more advanced and comfortable with various support infrastructures including easy loans to childcare berthing.

But have all these benefits been commensurate with the right philosophy by workers?

Inherent job insecurity

Meanwhile, in the private sector we witness exploitation.

The philosophy that rules here is, 'I must make every sen I pay you, work double for me'. While this credo has its root in the profiteering mindset that is the driving force of the private enterprise engine, it has helped to discipline our workforce.

The downside, however, is the acute and inherent job insecurity that lurks in workers leading to various stress-related medical and health conditions.

The other area of labour, of course, is the given and indisputable fact that Malaysians have been known to exploit and profiteer from cheap, migrant labour by the millions - from both legal and illegal foreigners.

From denying basic rights to decent livelihood to offences like withholding employee passports, physical abuse - you name it, we have it here in Malaysia.

It is time for Malaysians - workers, employers, policy-makers - to be honest, and resolved all these problems, come May 1.

Can we correct our sins of commission, omission and dereliction of duties and adopt a national philosophy that cuts across all segments?

Will we recognise that work is a blessing and that it is the only route to a future for our individual selves, to the family, the community and the nation.

Will we able to enforce laws that bite without the much-touted claims of 'we must be sensitive to race sensitivities and rights of segments of citizens'?

Will we have the honest conviction to see labour as a blessing and honour it with a categorically imperative to respect, honour, reward and fulfil all obligations that always accompany any blessings?

And are we ready to build this whole new culture of right attitude and mindset towards work at any cost, including sacking, trimming or replacing unproductive workers as well as closing down companies that cheat on workers?

If we truly believe in the religious teachings of our respective beliefs and profess to be sincere followers of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Taoism, or any all else that we have aplenty in tiny Malaysia, then we should have no problem in honouring to the letter the 'rezeki' that is granted to us.

A progressive nation is sustainable only with a productive nation; productivity is robbed when work is devoid of values of integrity, ethics and a right, national philosophy.

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

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