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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Economic recovery: MTUC points 'optimistic' minister to Covid-19 unemployment woes


CORONAVIRUS | The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has expressed concern that the government’s optimistic projection of Malaysia fiscal recovery next year does not reflect the extent of the unemployment problem in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s secretary-general J Solomon also questioned Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz’s estimation that 70 percent of the workforce has returned to work with the government’s reopening of the economy.
“We are baffled as to where the minister got his figures from and worry that he is attempting to mask the reality of the growing unemployment problem in Malaysia which has been worsened by the economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Many employers, including SMEs, have been talking about massive lay off exercises being ramped up in the coming weeks, including a grim prediction by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) that up to two million people are expected to lose their jobs after the Hari Raya celebrations.
“MTUC does not wish to be the prophet of doom or douse Tengku Zafrul’s rather exuberant optimism on Malaysia’s prospects next year. However... the details will show there are hundreds of thousands of workers that have lost their jobs or are forced to take deep pay cuts from their already meagre salaries,” Solomon said in a statement today.
In his statement today, Solomon further alleged that one factor to this problem was the Perikatan Nasional government’s reluctance to implement the Emergency Employment Regulations (EER) proposed by MTUC which would bar employers from retrenching workers for a specific period.
This failed to shield many employees from “unscrupulous employers” who used the pandemic as an excuse to carry out retrench staff and execute pay cuts.
“Consequently, due to the absence of the EER, workers were laid off from the very first day the movement control order (MCO) was enforced as employers went on to receive billions of ringgit in grants and soft loans under the Bantuan Prihatin stimulus packages,” he said, adding that in many cases, the one-off aid payments have since been used up by recipients.
“Tengku Zafrul has claimed the country is in a recovery phase now and he will release a short term economic recovery plan in June followed by a medium-term plan in October. We hope the minister will recognise the need for workers not to be just fed with such plans but more importantly, to provide them with a lifeline of financial assistance on a sustainable basis,” said Solomon.
Yesterday, Tengku Zafrul said Malaysia has the capacity for economic recovery in 2021.
The minister had said that to weather the economic downturn due to the global health crisis, the government was implementing the 6R approach - Resolve, Resilience, Restart, Recovery, Revitalise and Reform.
The first phase, Resolve, entailed the government effort to curb the coronavirus outbreak, including by implementing the MCO in March.
Restart involved the move to open the economy in stages, Revitalise refers to the medium-term plan to be announced in October or November this year, while Reform refers to the country’s long-term economic restructuring plan.
MTUC questioned why the government had yet to gather the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) - comprising the government, MTUC and MEF - to seek input from employers and employees to better plan for the Recovery stage of the plan. - Mkini

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