LETTER | MTUC wishes to record its deepest appreciation to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah for urging employers not to lay off their workers arbitrarily in facing the economic downturn due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
His Majesty, in making the call during his royal address when opening the third term of the 14th Parliament yesterday, once again displayed the palace’s utmost care and concern on the plight of workers, especially the B40 and M40 groups.
In leading our elected MPs to deliver a standing ovation to the frontliners involved in combatting Covid-19, His Majesty has again put the spotlight on the need to look after the welfare of workers during this current crisis.
As such, we urge all employers to appreciate and heed the call by our beloved king for them to do all they can to retain their workers even though many industries and businesses are affected by Covid-19.
His Majesty’s message that all quarters should be willing to make sacrifices to ease the burden of the rakyat and save the country's economy will hopefully strike a chord with employers in ensuring the livelihood of millions of workers.
In line with the king’s message, we call on employers and businessmen not to shirk from their responsibility towards their workers and the entire nation especially those who have received financial aid from the government through the various stimulus packages.
MTUC feels that businessmen who receive public funds to help them to keep afloat but disregard the Agong’s advice are committing a betrayal of public trust and treason against the king.
In this regard, we urge the government to emulate the move by Hong Kong authorities to impose cash penalties on employers who sack workers, despite being given wage subsidies.
Like Malaysia, Hong Kong is spending a tremendous amount of money to provide wage subsidies of 50 percent to companies to deal with the economic impact of Covid-19.
To get the first tranche of subsidies in three to four weeks, employers in Hong Kong must pledge that the number of employees on payroll between June and August is not smaller than that in March, including those on unpaid leave. The money received by employers must all go to the employees.
This is a good carrot and stick system which should also be implemented in Malaysia, especially as more than 200,000 employers have applied for wage subsidies for 1.7 million workers under the Employees' Insurance Scheme.
However, there is little oversight and transparency in ensuring the funds are used solely for the benefit of workers and that companies enjoying the subsidies will not lay off their workers or force them to take pay cuts.
MTUC reiterates its call on the government to introduce Emergency Employment Regulations (EER) which bar employers from retrenching their staff for a specific period, following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government must give priority to the workers’ welfare as their commitment will be crucial in helping to revive our battered economy.
Workers must not become victims of unscrupulous businessmen who opt for pay cuts and retrenchments as a quick fix to reduce costs so they can retain their profit margins.
The writer is the secretary-general of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
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