Public perception and confidence that Malaysia has a corruption-free Prime Minister and government is what we need for the welfare and wellbeing of Malaysian workers, says N. Gopal Kishnam.
The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) is deeply concerned about the state of affairs in Malaysia and its impact on workers.
What has surfaced is, amongst others, the allegation of corruption against Prime Minister Najib Razak in connection with the about RM2.6bn allegedly found in his personal bank accounts, the allegation of ‘wrongs’ done by 1MDB, related companies and possibly other government-linked companies (GLCs).
There is also the perception that there has been interference in various available investigation mechanisms in Malaysia, be it the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the attorney general’s chambers, police, the Public Accounts Committee of parliament, the special task force and others.
All these, including the dropping ringgit, which MTUC believes is also because of the above, may have a negative impact on workers.
Many businesses and investors consider a clean corruption-free government, effective legal mechanisms and proper enforcement for justice as an attractive reason to come set up their businesses in Malaysia, or even remain in Malaysia.
The MTUC is concerned that the dropping ringgit may also cause an increase in the cost of living of workers, and unless wages of workers are increased, this will cause great difficulties for workers and their families.
While dropping oil prices and other factors may be the cause, it cannot be denied that these corruption allegations and matters related will also be an added factor for the decline of the Malaysian currency value.
The MTUC reiterates that the minimum wages, which workers in Malaysia have been enjoying since 1 January 2013, should have been increased the latest by 1 January 2015. We draw your attention to our statement, which can be found on our website, entitled ‘MTUC disappointed that after two years and four months, workers’ minimum wage rates still not increased’ which was issued on 19 May 2015. Wages, especially minimum wages, need to be increased now to enable workers to cope with their economic welfare.
Of late, there has been news that many factories like JVC Kenwood Malaysia Sdn Bhd, Ansell Malaysia Sdn Bhd, and Fairchild Semiconductor International Inc (known before as National Semiconductor) have closed down or will be closing down, which will leave thousands of workers unemployed.
About 1,891 employees of CIMB Group in Malaysia are also out of work. After 31 August, there will also be about 6,000 employees of Malaysian Airlines Systems Berhad (MAS Bhd) who will be out of work.
The MTUC believes that there are many more workers in Malaysia who are out of employment, and that many more will lose their jobs in the near future.
The MTUC has called for many measures like the emergency financial assistance for workers out of work, and a cost of living allowance (Cola) for all workers, all of which would have been most helpful for workers in Malaysia during these difficult times. We need legally provided protections and rights to assist workers in such difficult times.
It is of utmost importance for our Prime Minister and our government to restore public confidence, which would naturally include independent transparent investigation and due process of law. No one is above the law.
Public perception and confidence that Malaysia has a corruption-free prime minister and government and that Malaysia believes in justice is what we need for the welfare and wellbeing of the about 12 million workers and their families.
N Gopal Kishnam is secretary general of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress.