Protection, aid for gig workers

KUALA LUMPUR: Who can gig workers turn to if they have a grievance? Currently, there is no official avenue for workers in this informal sector to sort out their issues.

Which is why gig workers are happy that a commission to regulate the sector is being set up by the government.

According to P-Hailing Malaysia chief activist Zulhelmi Mansor, gig workers have to deal with issues like an uncertain income rate and termination or suspension of their accounts without being given the opportunity to defend themselves – he’s hoping the commission will help with such matters.

“We see that we still have not found a solution to what we have been fighting for ... so where can we (gig players) air all our grievances? For that reason, we see the need to set up the commission,” he told Bernama yesterday.

He was interviewed after a national forum on the gig economy framework was launched by Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi here yesterday.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that details of the commission, which is expected to impact 1.12 million workers, will be announced in the 2024 budget in October.

He is hoping that part of that announcement will include increased aid for ehailing drivers and p-hailing riders, from RM100mil in Budget 2023 to RM500mil next year.

The Malaysian gig economy is estimated to be valued at RM1.61bil, and earnings for the platforms that provide the services are expected to grow from RM371.4mil in 2021 to RM650mil in 2025.

The Deputy Prime Minister announced the tentative name for the commission at the event: the Malaysian Gig Economy Commission (Segim) and said that the Human Resources Ministry will be responsible for presenting a memo to the Cabinet to establish it.

“What is most important is that over the years even as the gig economy expanded, gig workers felt neglected, as service providers don’t see them as employees.”

This is one of the issues that the commission is expected to address when it is established, Ahmad Zahid said.

Segim will aim to resolve issues in the informal work ecosystem and create initiatives that will take care of the welfare of consumers, vendors, traders, workers, and service providers, Ahmad Zahid said.

Among the commission’s main duties will be to coordinate the creation of clear regulations and rules that can protect all participants and promote a fair environment in the industry.

Segim will also be tasked with protecting gig workers by advocating for workers’ rights – including the right to fair wages – social safety nets, job security, and workplace safety.

Ahmad Zahid added that the commission will also conduct research and promote innovations in the gig economy, including developing new business models and adopting the latest commercial trends.

“In order to restructure the gig economy so that it is more systematic, fair, and harmonious, the Human Resources Ministry is crafting a framework that will be used as a reference for everyone involved in the industry,” said Ahmad Zahid.

The framework will encompass the definition of what is a gig worker, their labour rights, and the social protections they must have, he added.

Besides the commission, the government will also invest in upskilling and reskilling gig workers through programmes under Mara, the Human Resources Development Fund and the Youth and Sports Ministry.

He added that the government will consider other proposed initiatives to aid gig workers, such as subsidies for Social Security Organisation (Socso) and Employee Provident Fund (EPF) contributions, driving licences and insurance fees, and road tax.

“I am confident that these initiatives will be considered by the Prime Minister for inclusion in the 2024 budget so that we can create a conducive environment for gig workers to continue to prosper and contribute to the economy.”

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