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MTUC raises concerns over scant details of Penjana

KUALA LUMPUR (June 6): The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has raised concerns over what it described as scant details the government has offered in Plan Jana Semula Ekonomi Negara or the short-term Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday.

In a statement, MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said MTUC fears that, similar to the previous Prihatin stimulus packages, Penjana will fail to live up to its lofty promises on ensuring workers are protected.

“Neither has the government divulge any information on its plans, if any, to ensure that employers who benefit from Penjana live up to their end of the bargain by ensuring workers keep their jobs and the subsidies meant for workers go to them and not elsewhere,” he said.

Solomon claimed that in all the earlier three Prihatin packages totalling more than RM250 billion, neither the government nor Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) made public any details of who received the public money by way of financial assistance and wage subsidies that were dished out to businesses, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“MTUC’s demand that the finance minister and Bank Negara publish a list of these beneficiaries for the sake of public transparency has been ignored time and again for reasons known best to the government.

“What the public and MTUC do know is that despite all the handouts to the business community, thousands of workers have been rendered jobless and the Malaysian Employers Federation has warned that more than two million workers will be unemployed in the coming weeks,” he said.

Solomon said many workers who have so far lost their jobs are victims of unscrupulous employers, despite the fact that some of them are blue-chip companies and international conglomerates.

“The Labour Department’s failure to crack down on such employers have spurred others to follow suit.

“Unless there is a concerted attempt to crack down on these employers, they will simply continue to pocket the financial assistance from the Prihatin and Penjana packages while sacking workers at every opportunity,” he said.

Solomon added that without strict enforcement by the Labour Department and even the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to ensure employers fully comply with the conditions attached to the financial goodies, the MTUC fears far more workers will lose their jobs compared to the number of job opportunities envisaged by the government by rolling out Penjana.

“For instance, the government will spend RM2 billion on upskilling which inevitably will be carried out by private contractors engaged by the Human Resources Development Fund and other agencies.

“The government must come clean on the protocols it has put in place to weed out any element of corruption or power abuse in dishing out these training contracts,” he said.

He said the MTUC chooses to be cautious yet hopeful that the roll-out of the economic plan will indeed jump-start the economy and create more job opportunities for the sake of displaced workers and fresh graduates who will be joining the job market soon.

Meanwhile, Solomon urged the government to maintain the RM1,200 wage subsidy as there is a likelihood that many employers may opt to take the easy way out by laying off workers.

Solomon also claimed that many firms who were given the wage subsidy had only given the subsidy to workers and not paid the balance of their salaries, telling the workers that they "either take it or leave it".

“There were reports of a few who even took a portion of the subsidy for rental and utility bills. These firms should be blacklisted,” he said.

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