Wednesday, July 17, 2013

More unions for better representation, workers urged - (MTUC PENANG DIVISION)

BUTTERWORTH: In view of housing debts rising to worrying levels coupled with the escalating of cost of living, most Malaysian wage-earner are now trapped between the affluent and the lower middle income group, lamented veteran unionist K Veeriah.
“The saying that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer is indeed a reality among the working class here. Is it possible for wealth to be distributed equitably? This is a burgeoning issue which our policy makers and economists must seriously look into and come up with a solution fast,” said Veeriah.
He added that with less than nine percent of the country’s workforce unionised, the plight of the working population in this country cannot be effectively addressed when the unions are not empowered to represent all workers.
He said the low number of unionised workers is due to employers discouraging unionisation.
In view of the ever-rising cost of living, the Penang Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary urged the federal government to re-visit the RM900 national minimum wage currently in force.
Although MTUC commends the government for implementing a minimum wage after more than a decade of lobbying, the minimum sum of RM900 is paltry given the cost of living today.
“The minimum sum should be at least RM1,200 since many from the working class today are relying on loans to make purchases,” said Veeriah.
He added that with the unions swimming against the tide since Malaysia is a country which its labour policies favour the employers, more and more workers will become disgruntled when their pleas go unheeded.
Cash in pocket
Veeriah suggested that the middle-class consumers may have more cash in their pockets if their taxes are reduced and the prices of markets-driven items and healthcare costs are controlled by the government.
“Wastage or leakages in either public or private funds must also be curtailed so that there is more money available to government and corporations for them to help the less fortunate.”
Veeriah said this in response to a report that Bank Negara has decided to curb credit growth by reducing the tenure of mortgages and consumer loans, which is now at a maximum of 45 years in a bid to reduce household debts.
According to Bank Negara, mortgage tenure will be capped at 35 years and personal loans at 10 years.
It was reported that household debt in Malaysia, supported by rising incomes and a low unemployment rate, has grown about 12% annually since 2008.
By 2012, household debt has grown to 80.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Veeriah said employers must also curb cronyism or nepotism in workplaces by only rewarding productive workers and ensuring that meritocracy is applied to every aspect of employment.
“If the best is promoted, then it creates a competitive environment for the workers. People will constantly strive to progress if their efforts and contributions are recognised.”


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