MARCH 26 — The latest initiative to allow workers to withdrew five hundred ringgit per month from their EPF is a akin to telling the workers to go pay themselves with monies they have saved for their retirement.
It is well known that Employees Provident Fund savings are insufficient to sustain most contributors when they retire.
To make matters worse the Ministry of Human Resources has come out with statements saying Employers must pay workers their salaries which is understood as full salaries.
The Ministry and the minister have to look beyond textbook solutions in such cases.
Solution provided by law
The law on wages regarding lawful deductions can be used to address this situation, and the Minister of Human Resources has to apply wisdom studying the implications of the current situation using the proviso of Section 24 (7) to allow for deductions by the employer during this period a proviso the Director General of Human Resources has the authority to use and implement.
Section 24(8) however stipulates that such deductions shall not exceed fifty percentum in any one month and considering that the current situation if the MOC remains at two weeks the employer bearing fifty percent may seem fair.
However in this period of downturn in sales and with the double whammy of this shutdown it may make the situation a burden too heavy for the employer to bear.
Covid 19 is without precedence accordingly the measures we take should have none either if industry is to survive and employees not left in despair following it.
Malaysia has never witnessed or experienced such a situation, it is a calamity without precedence, and to deal with it we have to take measures never before taken and every Malaysian will have to support the best measures available for us to ensure that this can be done, to meet the basic needs of the Malaysian worker and the survival of industry on which the nation and the worker are so dependent on.
Employees must not be left in despair, certainly not at such times, they must have the security of their wages to allow them to look after their families, put food on the table and look after their other essential needs, it is a time for survival not high living.
Security of tenure everyone’s responsibility
Having said that, employees must also realise the fact that this can only happen as long as they are employed, continued employment is a necessity that cannot be ignored and they too have to make sacrifices on their part.
If employers are squeezed excessively they may resort to retrenchment of the workforce, and even closing down of the enterprise, that will put employment at risk, and at times like this when we can’t expect too much foreign direct investment unemployment will grow and we can’t afford that.
This is a situation where the employer, the employee and more so the government has to play its part, the government just can’t stand aloof and pass moves that actually benefits no one like the latest initiative allowing the withdrawal of RM500 per employee from the EPF.
This EPF move is literally telling the worker to pay himself so where is the care from the Government?
The government should instead turn to Socso, and make it more relevant, this is what Social Security is after all.
In the meantime there must be no Sacrifice of the MOC to try and lessen this burden on employer and employee.
In an attempt to lessen these burdens to employer and employee the government should not sacrifice the lock down or what we call the MOC, that has to continue and judging from our present position maybe for another four weeks at the minimum with more stringent controls if we have to get this act in order to curb the spread of the disease.
Lessening the controls of the MOC to try and right the despair of the employer and the employee is tantamount to abandonment of its duties by the government , and we do not want that, neither should we accept it.
Make Socso relevant
In Malaysia we have the Social Security Organisation (Socso) to which both Employer and Employee pays a mandatory subscription to every month.
As stated earlier this Covid 19 outbreak has no precedent , so our actions will also be ones without precedence.
The government should scrap the EPF withdrawal plan of Ringgit Malaysian five hundred a month an get Socso to pay its members up to thirty percent of their wages for period of 12 months or until such time the situation returns to normal whichever is lesser to be reviewed at the time.
Socso has the funds and the government should use it, there is far more than 100 billion in assets alone in Socso.
If this is done and the Director General of Human Resources allows for the deduction of fifty percent in salary at this time, the employer can reduce his burden by 30 percent that being subsidized by Socso and the worker will receive his fifty percent, it’s the duty of everyone to chip in.
This is is the most meaningful exercise in Social Security by a Social Security Organization, so go ahead, please make Socso relevant.
The Government does not need laws or a precedent for this, Covid-19 pandemic is without precedent and to do this is governing, and that is precisely why we have a government.
To do their part, workers will have to sacrifice all the paid annual leave they are entitled to for the year to mitigate their loss of salary, this the worker has to do to be seen as contributing as a serious partner in this exercise.
The Government has to lessen tariffs on Electricity and other utilities and suspend HRDF contribution for the period, it is absurd to make such payments in a period training will grind to a halt except for very specific cases, this will also lessen the burden on the employer.
Socso contributions should be suspended during this period, and the arrears can be collected by Socso in instalments when the situation normalises over a similar period as that of the suspension.
EPF contributions shall continue during this period at existing rates, with Trade Unions and employee relations Managers in the non Unionised sector encouraging employees to increase their own contribution.
If these measures can be put in place Trade Unions must support it, but this is not to be a precedent for future negotiations on terms and conditions of service nor for the promulgation into law of these conditions these will remain unprecedented measures for an unprecedented global calamity.
These are special measures taken at a very special and crucial time in our history and the history of the world, these measures will have long term effects of people and industry at large, it can be good or bad very bad depending on what we choose to do, and we will learn from it, so let us hope to learn what is good from it by doing the right things.
*Francis T. Rozario is Executive Director of Targetexec Sdn Bhd, a multidisciplinary human resource consultancy.
**This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.