KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — The Malaysian Trades Union Congress questioned today the accuracy of Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz’s statement about the workforce returning to work, saying it contradicted official data that suggest firms have been culling jobs.
Zafrul had told state news agency Bernama yesterday that up to 70 per cent of workers have returned to work, as the government eased restrictions under the conditional movement control order.
But the umbrella union alleged in reality jobs in the hundreds of thousands have been decimated, which it blamed on the government’s refusal to roll out policies that would have protected workers.
“The devil is in the details and the details will show there are hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs or are forced to take deep pay cuts from their already meagre salaries,” it’s statement read.
“Employers are saying that the worst is yet to come.
“As such, MTUC is mindful about any attempts by government leaders to trivialise or downplay the dire situation of Malaysian workers, by claiming a rebound is imminent.”
Unemployment rate jumped to 3.5 per cent in the first quarter, a 0.2 percentage point increase.
In March alone, the unemployment rate increased sharply to over half a million, at slightly under 4 per cent, Department of Statistics data published recently showed.
MTUC claimed the massive job losses are partly due to the government’s refusal to introduce the Emergency Employment Regulations (EER) .
It said the policy the union had proposed would bar employers from retrenching workers for a specific period.
“Instead, the government is seen to be only keen in indulging employers, rather than protecting the livelihood of workers,” it said.
“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 Prihatin stimulus packages.”
The Perikatan Nasional government pumped RM260 billion into the economy in a desperate bid to mitigate the economic fallout from Covid-19, with close to RM8 billion of it allocated for wage subsidies.
MoF’s Laksana report published last week indicated only three out of ten small and medium businesses have applied for it, suggesting the fund is under utilised.
The ministry did not explain why.
MTUC said its feedback indicates that the one-off cash aid given to the rakyat as part of the RM250 billion Prihatin stimulus package has dried up, rendering many workers who had lost their jobs without any money to support their families.
The union body said the EER would have helped workers keep their jobs for a specific period.
“The EER would have helped ensure job security for every worker in this country, at least for a specific period,” it said in a statement.
“Instead, many workers have been retrenched and have virtually no savings to run their households.”