As the former Minister of Human Resources, I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation to all the hardworking men and women of this great country on this special day of yours; Labour Day.
Labour Day is a time to recognise and celebrate the achievements of workers everywhere. It is a day to honour the contributions of those who have built this nation and continue to work tirelessly to keep it strong.
Unfortunately, we are currently faced with high inflation, unemployment, and diminishing income which has reinforced inequality globally.
There is going to be greater inequality in our country if the government and private sector employers fail to listen to the voice of workers.
The effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on workers' income and security which are still felt today require a new vision and perspective.
Here are the following steps that need to be taken by the government to mitigate issues related to inequality and empower the workforce, while also reducing our dependency on foreign workers:
1) There is a need to ensure minimum wage is adhered to in the private sector. The minimum wage should gradually be done away with and replaced with a living wage, taking into consideration the living realities of the urban poor. The government could enact and enforce stronger labour laws and regulations to ensure that workers are treated fairly and with dignity, which includes strict enforcement of minimum wage laws, workplace safety regulations, and anti-discrimination laws.
2) There is an urgent need for impactful ideas when it comes to skills training for sectors of all industries. Investing in vocational education and training programs can help to develop a skilled workforce that is better equipped to meet the demands of the job market.
3) There is a need to address the plight of informal workers.
4) Force labour should be relooked at as news reports show that it is revealing its ugly head again. For this, the report by the Special Independent Committee on Foreign Worker Management headed by former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Yunus must be made public and its recommendations must be applied.
5) There should lesser impediments in setting up trade unions at the workplace.
6) There is a need for laws on violence and harassment in the workplace to complement sexual harassment law.
7) The Human Resources Ministry should utilise the tripartite system to raise labour standards in the country.
8) There must be more emphasise to empower more women into the workforce so that they get an equitable share of the pie. Boardrooms must be filled by a minimum of 30% of women.
9) Ensuring foreign investment of high value that could ensure better remuneration for workers. Also, ensure investments focus on infrastructure and technology as it can help to create more job opportunities for local workers.
10) Government should ensure social security for all categories of workers by investing in social security which would protect workers from future threats of pandemics.
On this Labour Day, it is hoped that the government would be responsive to the human conditions of workers as stated above by coming up with a vision to address inequality. This could only be done by raising labour standards in the country.
It is my hope that this Labour Day will serve as a reminder of the value of labour and the importance of ensuring that workers are treated with dignity and respect. Let us work together to create a better future for all workers, where their contributions are valued and recognized.
Kula Segaran, Ipoh Barat MP
30th April 2023