Archive for category Labour

What change? A reply to Dr M

― Pak Sako
CPI
Jan 04, 2013

JAN 4 ― Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad published a piece called “Change” yesterday in his blog.

In it he asked why change governments.

He then criticised the socialist ideology. He strangely claimed that “Malaysia has no ideology”.

That is completely untrue.

When Dr Mahathir came into power in 1981, Malaysia was introduced to the neoliberal ideology.

This is an ideology that is biased in favour of corporations and capitalists.

It is the opposite of socialism, which aspires to put people first.

The neoliberal ideology was aggressively promoted around the world in the early 1980s by influential global networks of business interests and their supporters.

Their mantra? Read the rest of this entry »

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Rethinking wage policy to reposition our economy

― Liew Chin Tong
The Malaysian Insider
Nov 28, 2012

NOV 28 ― Although the minimum wage law is scheduled to take effect in January 2013, the Barisan Nasional government does not seem to be particularly committed to re-imagine the Malaysian economy through wage policy reform. Efforts to smoothen the transition for small and middle industries are seriously lacking too.

Minimum wage is meant to tackle several long-standing structural issues of the economy at once. As the United States and Europe struggle to stay afloat economically, Asia can no longer remain as an exporter, we need to grow our domestic/Asian markets; a higher income among locals will help generate a more vibrant domestic market which in turn will generate more jobs.

Also, with minimum wage, companies and industries will likely to rely less on cheap labour but invest in longer term potentials, capabilities and hence productivity of the workforce.

This is a virtuous cycle that will check dependence on unskilled foreign workers and brain drain at once. Skilled citizens who work in foreign countries are likely to consider resettling back to their homeland if the wage difference between their home and host countries is narrowed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hiring Discrimination in Peninsular Malaysia Study: A Half Finished Product

By Koon Yew Yin

Last week I received a copy of an email invitation to a joint seminar by two academics, one from University of Malaya and the other from Unversiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. The title of their talk was “Does race matter in getting an interview? A field experiment of hiring discrimination in Peninsular Malaysia.”.

As I have been an employer with over 40 years experience, the seminar topic intrigued me. Unfortunately I was not able to attend. Subsequently, I have been following the internet discussion generated by the seminar. This includes the recent letter from the two researchers requesting an apology from an online news site which reported on the seminar findings.

Is Racial Bigotry an Issue in Hiring?

According to the letter, the online website had through its headline “Malaysian employers practise racial bigotry, study shows” grossly misrepresented the study. Although the two academics conceded that the article “fairly accurately conveys our main findings and conclusions”, they were upset by the politically incorrect term “racial bigotry” used in the headline.
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Huge bonus payout for Sime Darby bosses

By Habhajan Singh and John Gilbert
Free Malaysia Today
November 8, 2012

Unionists riled up over 20 months’ bonus paid to plantation managers and senior staff for 2011.

KUALA LUMPUR: A good number of plantation managers and senior staff at conglomerate Sime Darby Bhd took home bonus payouts ranging from 12 to 14 months with their September pay cheque.

Some planters and staff from other divisions of one of the largest government-linked corporations (GLC) received bonuses of as much as 20 months for the bonus payout for 2011, according company officials.

It is understood the highest payout against what is seen as meagre bonuses given to lower-level workers at its wholly-owned subsidiary, Sime Darby Plantation Sdn Bhd, has raised the ire of its unionists.

“It’s a planters market [at the moment]. Last year, most plantation companies would have paid out good bonuses,” said one industry executive.

Sime Darby declined to comment on the bonus payout, with one offical saying that staff remuneration information was confidential.

All Malayan Estate Staff Union (AMESU), the union outfit for the plantation workers, is looking at the issue with a view to taking further action, sources familiar with the union told The Malaysian Reserve.

The issue comes at a time when Sime Darby is seeking shareholders’ approval for a proposed performance-based employee share scheme of up to the company’s 10% issued and paid-up ordinary share capital.

The proposed scheme, to be voted at its extraordinary general meeting (EGM) today, is meant to award shares to selected employees for the “attainment of identified performance objectives” of the group. It is supposed to “attract, retain, motivate and reward” the “valuable selected employees,” the company said in a circular to shareholders dated Oct 16. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ideology and debt: A reply to Dr Mahathir

— Pak Sako
The Malaysian Insider
Aug 23, 2012

AUG 23 — In his blog post “Change” (August 22, 2012), former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad criticised the socialist ideology.

He then claimed that “Malaysia has no ideology”.

This is not accurate.

It can be strongly argued that the Malaysian government after 1980 followed the “neoliberalism” ideology, a pro-business ideology.

This economic ideology was aggressively promoted around the world at the start of the 1980s by two pro-business world leaders: British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (elected 1979) and American President Ronald Reagan (elected 1981). Read the rest of this entry »

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Guan Eng: Minimum wage not enough to improve living standards

By Clara Chooi
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 14, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 — Lim Guan Eng told Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today that his much-awaited minimum wage policy was insufficient to improve living standards without total reforms to the country’s economy, education and workforce policies.

The Penang Chief Minister said the new wage floor of RM1,100, to be announced this April 30, must come hand in hand with higher productivity jobs, increased female participation in the workforce and “accelerated structural reforms” to the economy aimed at reducing corruption and plucking leakages.

However, Lim added that although the new wage floor to be announced by Najib was purportedly due to opposition pressure, DAP would welcome the announcement.

Malaysians, he added, have “high expectations” of Najib.

“Malaysia is in sore need of structural economic reforms to make us more competitive, transparent, efficient as well as reduce leakages caused by wastage and corruption.

“Structural economic reforms such as open competitive tenders, full disclosure of contracts and personal assets of Ministers as well as a performance-based delivery system must carried out,” he said in his Tamil and Vaisakhi new year message today. Read the rest of this entry »

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Impotent rage

By Kapil Sethi | November 09, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

NOV 9 — So it’s final. No more PPSMI. Over a year of PAGE campaigning, petitioning, protesting and writing letters to the editors have come to naught. As the deputy prime minister remarked, the decision was made by the government in 2009 and it will not bow to the demands of small groups. The only concession is that those already under PPSMI will be allowed to finish their schooling under PPSMI.

So it’s final. No more arguments over amendments to the Employment Act. Three months of the Malaysian Trade Unions Congress (MTUC) campaigning, petitioning and picketing have had no impact on the government. The human resource minister called the picket illegal (November 1, The Malaysian Insider) and insisted “this is a policy issue by the government. If they picket, they are going against the law.”

Both PAGE and MTUC threatened to divert support from Barisan Nasional to the opposition if their demands were not met. The PAGE Facebook protest page garnered approximately 100,000 “Likes” while MTUC has over 800,000 members and counts on the support of 5.7 million workers. Even the Lynas controversy has managed to alienate a substantial portion of Kuantan residents, with no solution offered by the government beyond bare denials.
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Resisting Any Witch Hunt Aimed at Blaming the Illegals

Commentary by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

The statement by the Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that the presence of more illegal workers compared to the legal ones is a cause of concern and could undermine national unity reveals either an ignoramus or an idiot. Did he expect many less illegals given the super-efficiency of his Ministry and the other government agencies sharing responsibility on this vital matter of securing our borders against unauthorized intrusion and stay in the country?
According to the current ongoing exercise, as of Friday, a total of 2,088,358 foreign workers had been registered, of whom 1,135,499 were illegals. Probably everyone else in the country knows that this number is an under-estimate and that a very large number are still waiting processing or are avoiding being included in the count altogether.

Since his appointment in 2009 as the Minister in charge of this portfolio, Hishammuddin has been lurching from one self inflicted debacle to another. From bending over backwards to defend the indefensible conduct of demonstrators in the infamous cow head incident to his most recent use of repressive force against the Bersih rally, he has shown a standard of leadership of this important Ministry which must be plumbing new lows or matching those lows attained by Dr. Mahathir.
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True reasons behind gender pay gap

By Ananish Chaudhuri
Jun 25, 2011 | NZHerald

The existence of a gender wage gap in the workplace is well documented. Women earn less than men in similar jobs even after allowing for other factors such as education and experience.

In the United States, annual earnings data released by the Census Bureau last September shows women working full-time make, on average, 77c for every dollar earned by men. Read the rest of this entry »

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NUJ: Utusan chose to pay subsidiaries over union workers

By Yow Hong Chieh
The Malaysian Insider
May 27, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 — Utusan Melayu Bhd funnelled millions in profit into subsidiaries even while claiming it could not pay workers their mandatory bonus, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) revealed today.

Utusan Melayu had asserted there was no need to pay its NUJ members a contractual two-month bonus for 2009 , arguing it had lost RM26 million as an individual company that year.

Article 44 of the collective agreement between Utusan Melayu and its NUJ branch stipulates that union members must be paid a two-month bonus if the company turns a profit.

But the Industrial Court heard recently that the holding company paid out up to RM37.5 million from its operating profit to Utusan Media Sales Sdn Bhd and even gave the subsidiary’s employees a two-month bonus in 2009 despite refusing to pay NUJ members.

Utusan Melayu also did not demand payment from subsidiaries Utusan Printcorp Sdn Bhd and Utusan Publications and Distributors Sdn Bhd, which owed it RM19 million and RM8.4 million respectively. Read the rest of this entry »

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IFJ backs Hata’s appeal against Utusan sacking

Jacqueline Park, IFJ
May 6, 11

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) fully supports a senior journalist and union leader in Malaysia who is appealing to Malaysia’s Industrial Relations Department to order his reinstatement at Utusan Malaysia newspaper.

Hata Wahari, president of IFJ affiliate the National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJM), was sacked by Utusan Melayu Berhad after it accused him of tarnishing the paper’s image when he publicly expressed concerns about partisan coverage by Utusan.

Hata was dismissed from his position on April 21, after being suspended on January 11. Read the rest of this entry »

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Middle income-trap – Malaysia has shot itself in the foot!

Malaysia’s Development Strategy Revisited (2)
by Dr. Mohamed Ariff*

Input-Driven Growth unsustainable

It goes without saying that Malaysia must grow at a faster pace if it is serious about joining the club of developed countries by 2020 – hence the need to reinvent itself through reforms that can help restore the lost growth potential. Malaysia has learned the hard way that input-driven growth is unsustainable. It is instructive to note that the economy was growing at a rate of over 8.0 per cent in the early 1990s despite declining total factor productivity. To stay competitive, the growth strategy then was to keep wages low with the aid of a large migrant workforce. Obviously there was a dismal failure to understand that there were limits to economic expansion through input increases.

Migrant Workers depress wages

It was a major policy blunder to let migrant workers depress wages in the country, thereby throttling productivity improvements. Malaysia locked itself into low value-added manufacturing by allowing foreign workers to work in the sector for low wages, thus removing the incentive for manufacturers to automate. The size of the problem is huge: the country reportedly has 1.9 million registered migrant workers and another 600,000 unregistered ones (probably an underestimate), accounting for nearly one-fifth of the working population. These workers are not confined to the so-called 3D jobs – the difficult, dirty and dangerous jobs that the locals shun – but compete with Malaysians in the wider labour market. Read the rest of this entry »

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Protecting the vulnerable

by Tunku Abdul Aziz
My Sinchew
25th Sept 2010

The Government of Indonesia is absolutely right to ban their nationals from coming to work as domestic servants in Malaysia until our own government is prepared to guarantee the safety and well being of these women. This is the least the Government of Indonesia can do to protect their people from being routinely and savagely abused by Malaysian employers. The excesses that are reported in the pages of our newspapers are a shameful reminder of our ambivalent attitude to human cruelty and suffering.

Maid abuse is not a Malaysian invention; it has, however, become an ugly hallmark of our domestic employment culture. There have been far too many reported cases of inhuman physical treatment of foreign maids to ignore. The number of unreported cases of criminal abuse is staggeringly high. What sort of society have we allowed ourselves to be turned into? We shower our animals with love and affection, and yet we cannot bring ourselves to treat those who live, while in our service, under our protection, with a little kindness and dignity. We are dealing with human beings who work under conditions of slavery, out of dire necessity, not of choice. With its own abysmal human rights credentials, we cannot expect our government to be too concerned over such trivialities as foreign worker protection and their rights in a supposedly civilised country. If we do not give a damn about how our own citizens are abused by abusive laws, I should perhaps lower my expectations as far as our vulnerable foreign guest workers are concerned. Read the rest of this entry »

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Irene’s triumph after 13-year ordeal – two measures to give full meaning

Irene Fernandez has finally triumphed and been vindicated after a 13-year ordeal with the Sword of Damocles of a disenfranchising prison sentence hanging over her head for doing her duty to uphold truth and justice – the publication of the memorandum “Abuse, Torture and Dehumanised Conditions of Migrant Workers in Detention Centres” in 1995.

I had highlighted Irene’s expose of the torture, ill-treatment and deaths in the immigrant detention centres.

Instead of thanking her for revealing the truth of the shocking conditions in the detention centres, Irene was arrested and prosecuted under Section 8A (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 for publishing “false news”.

Irene’s acquittal is not the result of any change of heart or reformist impulse in the system of justice, whether involving the Attorney-General’s Chambers or the judiciary, but because of sheer incompetence and ineptitude in the system of justice after a grave miscarriage of justice in the charging of Irene 13 years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

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Irene Fernandez: The Best or Worst of Malaysia?

by Suzette Standring
November 2008
Huffington Post

It is a textbook case of laws being used to crush critics of governmental operations. Malaysia may be 9,296 miles from the United States, but the theme of authorities seeking to silence protest is a universal one. Thus when such a bell tolls, it can toll for thee.

The criminal appeal of Irene Fernandez, age 62, begins (Oct. 28-30) at the Criminal High Court in Kuala Lumpur. It is the longest running legal attempt in Malaysian history to punish a bearer of bad news. In August 1995, Fernandez made public her report, Abuses, Torture and Dehumanised Treatment of Migrant Workers at Detention Centres. It was based on interviews with 300 detainees, each of whom Fernandez spoke with in her role as director and co-founder of Tenaganita, a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Kuala Lumpur that has worked to protect the rights of foreign workers since 1991.

She gave voice to bloodied and abused immigrants held in centers pending deportation. Unspeakable filth, dehydration and rape of children were part of her documented report. In 2003 she was convicted of “maliciously publishing false news,” under Section 8A(2) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (1984) – even though the Malaysian government did admit to 46 detention-center related deaths. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lingam Tape – Haidar Inquiry end up as biggest sham with no proof either way of being authentic or otherwise?

With the three-man special panel inquiry into the authenticity of the Lingam Tape holding its first meeting today, two questions uppermost in the minds of Malaysians who want to be able to be proud again about the Malaysian judiciary and system of justice after 19 years of being the laughing stock of the world are:

  • Will the Haidar inquiry drag its feet until after next month when the Chief Justice Tan Sri Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim would have retired from the highest judicial office of the land, justifying the stance that the whole issue had become quite academic although Ahmad Fairuz was clearly the other party in the Lingam Tape despite the Chief Justice’s unorthodox “denial” through the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz; and

  • Will the Haidar Inquiry end up as the biggest sham of all inquiries in five decades of Malaysian nation-building, furnishing excuse for inaction by Cabinet because there is no concrete proof either way of its being authentic or otherwise?

Nazri said on Monday that “the result of the Haidar investigation will determine the next course of action, which will be decided by the cabinet”.

This is a very curious statement as the establishment of the Haidar panel was not decided by the Cabinet in the first place.

This is the chronology of events: Read the rest of this entry »

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Amendment to Employment Act

by Raymond Lim
Petaling Jaya

I refer to the recent statement by the Minister for Human Resources, Dato’ Dr. Chan Fong Onn that the back-dated wages will be limited to 24 months in cases of wrongful dismissal by employers under the proposed
amendments to the Employment Act.

The Minister justified the proposed amendment by referring to Practice Note No. 1/1987 which was introduced by the Industrial Court on the said 24 months limitation. Practice Note No.1/1987 on 24 months cap on backdated wages created some confusion. Several Industrial Court decisions applied the 24 months limitation. However, many did not do so on the basis that it is merely a practice note but not legally binding and by doing so, they sought to give more protection to employees from unscrupulous employers.

It is instructive for Members of Parliament to note that the Federal Court, in one of its landmark decisions, had ruled that the “right to live” under the Federal Constitution included the “right to livelihood”. For this reason, many decisions in the Industrial Court took judicial notice of this ruling in their decisions and declined to follow Practice Note No. 1/1987 when dealing with wrongful dismissal cases involving breach of natural justice, mala fide, victimization or unfair labour practice. Put in a nutshell, Practice Note No.1/1987 will not achieve the said ruling of the said Federal Court, the highest Court in the land. As a matter of fact, Practice Note No.1/1987 should be withdrawn by the Industrial Court.

In this letter, I will submit that it is extremely unwise for our Government to approve the said amendment to the Employment Act.

By way of introduction, in the case of wrongful dismissal by an employer, the Industrial Court will order a reinstatement of the employee and payment of back-dated wages from the date of wrongful dismissal to the date of judgment. Since the hearing at the Industrial Court may take place 3-5 years later or even longer, the amount of back-dated wages can be a substantial amount. If the employer-employee relationship is such that it is no longer possible to be continued, the Industrial Court will order the employer to pay one month’s salary for every year of service in lieu of reinstatement.

As a lawyer for close to 20 years, I have encountered countless cases wherein employers were extremely high handed when handling the dismissal of employees. Such high-handedness borders on total disregard to the livelihood of employees, especially employees who have been loyal to their organizations and had given the best years of their lives to their employers. Most wronglful dismissals arose because many unconscionable employers simply have no respect for employees as human beings or have scant regard for the due process of natural justice. In many cases, employees were transferred to branches far away merely to make them resign or subjected to other forms of victimization or unfair labour practice. Against this background, it is therefore not surprising that the industrial relations law and the industrial courts are protecting the welfare of employees, much to the chagrin of employers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Low-Income and the “FairWage” Initiative

The EPF is a social security institution formed according to the Laws of Malaysia, Employees Provident Fund Act 1991 (Act 452) which provides retirement benefits for members through management of their savings in an efficient and reliable manner. With rising costs of living, extended life expectancy and more expensive medical treatments, it is critical that Malaysians save as much as possible to ensure sufficient funds for retirement. It is also important for as many Malaysians as possible to be included in the system.

However, as studies have shown, low-income Malaysians are facing significant difficulties in saving enough via EPF. As a result, the Government must act to assist this group of Malaysians who face various challenges in the face of globalisation, particularly with a stagnant or declining real wages. This is clearly reflected in the 9th Malaysia Plan Gini co-efficient statistics where by income disparity among Malaysians has widened substantially. Malaysia ranked highest in terms of income inequality in Southeast Asia.

To assist low and medium-waged workers, DAP proposes raising the Employer EPF Contribution Rate from the current 12% of total wages to 15%, representing a 25% increase. This will in turn raise the total contribution from the employer and employee to the fund to a total of 26%.

At the same time, in view of the increase in cost for the employers, which may in turn affect the competitiveness of Malaysian companies, it is proposed that a limit of RM8,000 per month or RM96,000 per annum be set to Employer contributions to the EPF. That means that for employees earning above the limit, their EPF contributions will continue to be calculated at the limit level.

However, for middle-age workers who are earning below RM1,400 per month , it is clear that they will continue to face severe challenges despite the increase in employer’s EPF contribution. Whilst younger workers may be learning the ropes and learn new skills to upgrade their income level, older workers will face difficulties in our fast-changing economic environment and are in the greatest need of assistance from the state to make ends meet.

With the oil and gas sector contributing handsomely to the state coffers, it only makes social sense to share part of these gains with the less fortunate and lower income tiers within our society. However, at the same time, we still need to continue to incentivise these workers to secure employment to avoid over-dependence on the state. Hence, DAP proposes “FairWage” as an integral component of a new national policy in promoting social justice. FairWage has a 3-prong strategy for implementation: Read the rest of this entry »

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1st priority for PM on return from honeymoon – first meeting with MTUC leaders in 44 months

I have today given notice to the Speaker, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah for an urgent parliamentary debate on the demand for minimum wage and cost of living (Cola) for private-sector workers in a motion of urgent definite importance on Monday.

This is the motion I will move on Monday:

“That under Standing Order 18(1), the House gives leave to Ketua Pembangkang YB Lim Kit Siang to move a motion of urgent, definite public importance, viz: the MTUC demand for minimum wage and cost of living allowance (Cola) for private sector with potential to result in large-scale industrial action.

“On Monday, 25th June 2007, Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) staged a 14-location nation-wide picketing by thousands of workers after discussions with the government on its campaign for a minimum wage of RM900 a month and cost of living (Cola) of RM300 for private sector employees came to a deadlock.

“A week earlier, MTUC presented a seven-page memorandum to the Prime Minister asking for minimum wage and Cola for the private sector but did not elicit any appropriate response.

“According to an MTUC study, some four million out of the 10 million workers it represents are earning below the poverty line. Even in Johor Baru where cost of living is extremely high, industrial workers are paid as low as RM390. Even five-star hotels in Kuala Lumpur pay a basic wage of RM290 per month to cleaners and waiters.

“The Prime Minister should initiate tripartite talks involving the government, MTUC and employer representatives on MTUC demand for minimum wage and Cola to avoid escalation of industrial action and ensure industrial peace with justice for three reasons:

  • A follow-up to the recent 35% salary increase and 100% increase in Cola for public sector employees to ensure that private-sector workers, especially in low-wage categories, are assured of a decent living and a basic fair wage;

  • The flooding of the country with millions of migrant workers on low wages and poor working conditions;
  • The loss of confidence of the MTUC in the Human Resources Minister YB Fong Chan Onn’s ability to resolve the issue.”

I am shocked to learn from the MTUC President, Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud that in his 44 months as Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had not had any single meeting with the MTUC leaders despite repeated MTUC requests for such a dialogue. Read the rest of this entry »

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