MalaysiaKini : Workers: Don't insult our intelligence

Workers: Don’t insult our intelligence
Claudia Theophilus Mar 4, 06 8:19pm

The labour movement wants employers to consider a minimum RM150 salary
increment across the board to cushion workers against the impending rise in
the cost of living in the coming weeks.

Malaysia Trades Union Congress (MTUC) president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud
said this will be conveyed by affiliate unions in the respective sectors.

"We will send a memorandum to the prime minister, cabinet ministers, members
of Parliament and political party leaders outlining arguments against the
price increase in petrol, diesel and gas as well as the upcoming hike in
electricity tariff.

“Over the last 12 months, the price of petrol and petroleum products have
increased manifold, and consumers have borne the cost,” he said after the
General Council emergency meeting Friday in Subang Jaya.

Parliament reconvenes in 10 days

The 21-member council is the MTUC’s highest decision-making body comprising
representatives from the public and private sector unions throughout the

The MTUC, whose membership stands at over half a million workers, plans to
lead a huge gathering with the support of various concerned groups and hopes
the public will show their full support by turning up when the details are
On Feb 27, the government announced a 30 sen hike per liter of petrol and
diesel, and per kilogramme of gas.

Food traders and hawkers have reportedly started to increase their prices.

Syed Shahir said that even if small traders, hawkers and kuih sellers
maintained their pricing, there is still concern over possible compromises
to quality and size/portion of food items.

He was also peeved with Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s statement
during an interview Thursday asking Malaysians to change their lifestyles

“What does he exactly mean by that? What else is there to change? As it is,
people are only spending what they have. Is he suggesting that we should
have one daily meal now instead of three?”

Many parents, he said, will be forced to compromise on decisions including
how much pocket money they can afford to give their schoolgoing children.

“It’s become common for people especially in the Klang Valley to take on
more than one job to afford rental and loans for their car and house but
they lose on quality time as they hardly see each other.”

Syed Shahir said several council members had questioned the management of
Petronas over sponsorships of the Formula 1 events, a billion-ringgit

“There were suggestions that at the appropriate time, we launch a symbolic
protest where every worker only fills up 30 sen worth of petrol. We’re
considering this idea because we need to study the practicality of it,” he

On the government’s plans to introduce the goods and services tax, he said
the petrol price had only served to delay its implementation.

Several council members, clearly incensed over Najib’s remarks, slammed
politicians, ministers and consumer groups for mouthing the “unjustifiable
grounds and reasons”.

Drawing on personal experiences, they related how a Kancil drank RM38 for a
full tank from RM30 previously and petrol cost of a Perdana that went from
RM55 for a full tank to RM70 and now RM90.

National Union of Bank Employees general-secretary J Solomon:
The government is merciless in its decision and arrogant in its explanation.
(Najib’s) explanation to change our lifestyle is unacceptable to any
ordinary Malaysian.

Both the PM and DPM should stop misleading the public and treat people this
way. The justifications made by the ministers are simply unbelievable. They
are clearly taking us for fools. Do they think we are that stupid?

We hope banks will consider a Cost of Living Allowance (Cola) for their
employees. In fact, we had asked for Cola last year to be included in the
collective agreement but it was rejected.

I used to fill my Waja to full tank with RM50, then RM60 on to RM70 and now
RM100 does not ensure a full tank.

The banking sector is badly affected as almost everyone uses private
vehicles. In addition, many banks are closing down their branches and
transferring employees to branches farther away. In most places, the public
transportation is either unreliable or non-existent.

MTUC secretary-general G Rajasekaran:
Given the state of public transportation, if you don’t own a transport, you
risk being sacked for coming in late for work. It would have been a
different story if the facilities were already in place before fuel prices
are raised.

The cabinet should set the example by using local cars that consumes less
petrol, maybe a Kancil. In the next few weeks, we are going to see an
all-round increase in prices including items supplied by fishermen, farmers
and petty traders.

Also, where are Petronas’ profits going to? The savings on fuel subsidy of
several billions is nothing compared to the tens of billions of ringgit
Petronas earns.

MTUC vice-president (private sector) K Brabakarun:
We represent 14,100 members Non-Metallic Mineral Products Manufacturing
Employees Union working in 124 companies. Let’s take a family of five and an
average monthly income of RM800. Over the last three years, fuel prices have
increased 40 to 50 percent.

These workers could only afford motorcycles but the fuel prices have gone up
by almost half, so how are they going to survive when their real wages have
shrunk significantly, by about 40 percent?

We have no confidence in the government’s Consumer Price Index because the
figures have remained the same despite several hikes in fuel prices. We’re
very sure the actual index is not reflected in the government’s statistics.

MTUC vice-president (private sector) Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid:
We have 7,000 members in the Peninsular Malaysia Club Employees Union and we
think the hike is scary, unreasonable and further widens the
income-expenditure gap.

The hike is crazy especially when Malaysia is an oil producer. But how is it
that Brunei and Arab Saudi can afford low fuel prices? The Malaysian
government is not transparent about something so essential.

Najib is advising people not to be ashamed of using public transportation
such as the LRT but does he know that the LRT does not run through the
industrial areas in Shah Alam and in other states?