KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — The Malaysian Trade Unions Congress has called for additional disbursements of funds to aid poorer workers affected by the virus-hit economy, even as Putrajaya announced a stimulus package worth RM20 billion just last week.
Cash assistance was one of several proposals the MTUC suggested could help cushion the impact of Covid-19, which has hurt world market hard after the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.
MTUC said an Emergency Action Committee comprising the relevant stakeholders should be formed to oversee and manage the fund and streamline guidelines for the various ministries to contain the spread of Covid-19 at workplaces.
“MTUC respectfully calls on the new Government to urgently set up a Covid 19 Emergency Action Committee (EAC) as a top priority to collectively address this life-threatening issue on workers health and livelihood,” it said in a statement.
“EAC should comprise the relevant stakeholders such as MTUC to address the health and economic issues pertaining to Covid-19. The EAC will also enable stakeholders to provide... for a new economic stimulus package as clearly the RM20 billion package announced last month is not adequate nor sustainable.”
MTUC expects the impact of the virus outbreak to hit the Bottom 40 and Middle 40 percentiles of income earners the most.
The congress proposed that banks defer housing, study and vehicle loan installments without imposing any penalties to B40 and M40 segments for at least six months, while welfare recipients including Socso be given a one-off payment of RM500.
It also suggested pensioners from the two income groups be given a one-off payment of RM500, and RM1,000 for all workers earning below RM4,000.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin promised on Monday to expedite the disbursement of RM20 billion worth of stimulus announced by his predecessor last month to counter the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
The pandemic has forced the government to lower the country’s growth forecast and raise its fiscal deficit estimate. The revised growth range is 3.2 to 4.2 per cent for this year, a marked low from the optimistic 4.9 per cent announced previously.
The stimulus includes tax breaks and rescheduling of loans for companies affected by the virus outbreak, and cash aid for some, he said. State-linked companies and public agencies will also accelerate investment projects.
But MTUC suggested workers would benefit little from the stimulus. It said a new package must not cater “solely to facilitate the cash flow of selected businesses”, but also ensure that employees of these companies benefit directly from the government’s assistance.
“Ignoring the plight of workers during this difficult period brought about by Covid 19, coupled with the prevailing fragile political situation, may lead to unnecessary industrial restlessness, and trigger more challenges to the frayed economy,” the body said.
“The situation must be contained fast and effectively.”