SUBANG JAYA: Workers and leaders alike stood together to voice their concerns over the increasing cost of living and long working hours as well as to demand more rights for the workforce to mark Labour Day.
Representatives and members from 21 unions who joined a Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) rally here yesterday also supported the minimum wage policy and reducing the number of foreign contract workers.
They gathered with their families outside Wisma MTUC from as early as 8am, sporting red union caps and chanting “Hidup Pekerja (Long Live Workers)”.
Despite the gloomy weather, there was an air of camaraderie while they shared breakfast and won prizes for the biggest contingents and most creative Labour Day themed banners.
While the mood was light, they made serious demands on issues affecting their everyday life.
MTUC secretary-general N. Gopal said despite some progress made by the Government in addressing labour issues, there were many problems still plaguing the work force.
“Among issues faced by Malaysian workers are employers postponing the implementation of the minimum wage policy and the prevalence of contract workers, who are usually foreigners.
“We are not against foreign workers, it's just that employers favour them because they work for lower salaries, making it harder for nationals to find employment,” he said.
Inventory controller Kamarul Ariffin, 43, said that as a Klang Valley resident, the cost of living was his biggest worry.
“Prices keep going up while I work long hours for the same salary. This is something that I feel should be addressed,” he said.
Timber Employees Union of Peninsular Malaysia leader Amutha Verayya, 33, said she and her colleagues were waiting for their salaries to be upgraded following the implementation of the minimum wage policy.
“It's been five months. When we ask our employers, they only tell us to wait,” she said.
Meanwhile, members of the Nepalese Migrant Workers Association, who also took part in the rally, called for better treatment and extensive welfare coverage for foreign workers in Malaysia.
“Our people here are not given insurance coverage and are not taken care of properly, leading to injuries at the workplace and other health complications,“ said association coordinator Bedkumar Khatiwada.