Labour Day special: Same grind, new challenges

On this Labour Day, workers ponder the prospects of their jobs more than ever before.

We mark Labour Day today in the most challenging of times. Never has the future of workers been more uncertain.

Bank Negara estimates that the country’s unemployment rate could rise to 4% (629,000 people) but analysts, employers and unions view this as an extremely conservative figure.

The Malaysian Employers Federation, for example, foresees that unemployment, post Covid-19, could reach up to two million people or 13% – superseding unemployment during both the 1998 Asian financial crisis and the 2009 global financial crisis combined.

The country has just entered the fourth phase of the movement control order and many businesses remain shut and workers continue to work from home. Many, including the thousands of migrant workers in the country, have experienced devastating losses of income and are struggling to cope.

But, perhaps, amidst all this flux, we should celebrate the spirit of Labour Day: celebrate workers and, more importantly, make sure their welfare and rights are upheld.

“Many workers are losing their jobs or have been forced to take deep pay cuts because of the pandemic.

“May 1 is definitely a time to reflect and renew our commitment to uplift workers mired in poverty and oppression, a mission which is now even more daunting. The collective strength of workers is the greatest force in our struggle to attain human dignity, especially at times like this when we have no choice but to rise and defend our rights as workers, ” says Malaysian Trades Union Congress secretary-general J. Solomon in a Labour Day message to workers.

Workers, he says, despite being so essential to a functional society, are frequently abused by the powerful.

“But let me assure you that MTUC will stand up to defend each and every worker from unscrupulous employers or like-minded politicians who walk all over workers, ” he says.

In StarLifestyle today, we highlight the stories of workers from various sectors who have found ways to cope with the challenges and share their hopes and fears in these difficult times. Check out the links below for the stories.

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