PETALING JAYA: Economists and unions said unscheduled holidays such as the Sept 4 public holiday to celebrate Malaysia’s SEA Games victory would not have any major impact on businesses.
Lee Hwok-Aun from Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies said although businesses may see interruptions in operations, the overall cost from a one-day disruption is manageable.
Lee said some companies might close for the day, but would double up their production process later and possibly pay overtime.
“Or they’ll work on the impromptu holiday and pay overtime to eligible workers,” he said.
The government recently declared Sept 4 as a public holiday to celebrate Malaysia’s success at the Kuala Lumpur 2017 SEA Games.
The move resulted in a five-day weekend on the back of Merdeka and Hari Raya Haji holidays on Aug 31 and Sept 1.
This year, Malaysia observes 14 public holidays, resulting in six long weekends. There are only 16 official working days in the month of September.
Not all industries are affected
Klang MP Charles Santiago said employers were only complaining because it was an unplanned public holiday.
This made it difficult for businesses to plan and manage their resources accordingly.
“If it is a scheduled one, companies can better schedule their production. But not all industries are affected by this unscheduled holiday.”
Santiago said tourism, for example, would flourish and this would in turn benefit hotels and the food and beverage industry.
“You need to look at it fairly,” he said.
It’s all about management
The country’s largest union of bank workers, meanwhile, said the issue depended on the management of a business.
National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) secretary-general J Solomon told FMT the holiday was an excuse for employers to complain that productivity was affected and companies had to pay workers overtime.
“It is either because they are poor in management or they are envious that the bulk of the B40 and the M40 population are being paid legitimate wages,” he said.
B40 refers to the bottom 40% household income group, and comprises households earning a monthly income of RM3,900 and below. M40 refers to the middle 40% with a household income of between RM3,860 and RM8,319.
Solomon said it was nonsensical for employers to cite lower productivity, adding that Malaysia’s productivity growth is actually on track.
“In 2016, Malaysia recorded 3.5% labour productivity growth. This is targeted to reach 3.7% by the end of this year.
“From 2011 to 2015, there was an average 2% increase each year in productivity growth. We’re actually on track, based on the 11th Malaysia Plan,” he said.
Solomon said employers should stop being obsessed with profits at any cost from their workforce.
He said they must also ensure that their employees enjoy their rightful benefits.
“Whatever is deserving to the workforce must be given to them. The employers should not short-change their employees.”
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) meanwhile said that it all boils down to how a company manages its resources and maintains its production value.
MTUC president Halim Mansor said employers should recognise that public holidays and annual leave are for employees to rest and recharge.
They should not get recalled on public holidays and be made to work like robots, he said.
“For example, there are many companies nowadays that use advanced automated technology for their day-to-day operations. That should help not disrupt their overall productivity.
“We have to work smart. Not work hard all the time,” Halim said.