PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) today called on the government to come up with a new and bigger stimulus package without delay to ensure that workers, especially those with meagre salaries, get the protection and financial assistance they need.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was interim prime minister at the time, had announced a RM20 billion economic stimulus package on Feb 27 to boost business confidence, a sum which MTUC said is “not adequate”.
In a statement, MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said the congress hoped to see the government establish a Covid-19 Emergency Action Committee (EAC) to address the outbreak’s impact on workers’ health and livelihood.
“The EAC will also enable stakeholders to provide the government with functional proposals for a new economic stimulus package as, clearly, the RM20 billion package announced last month is not adequate or sustainable, especially in providing a safety net for workers, particularly for the B40 and M40 (income) group.
“A new, bigger package is clearly needed, and the EAC proposals can ensure that it will provide more comprehensive assistance to the affected economic sectors and the workers involved,” he said.
Solomon said the proposed package must ensure that employees benefit directly from the government’s assistance, as opposed to solely focusing on facilitating the cash flow of selected businesses.
He noted that besides the aviation and tourism sectors, the pandemic had “crippled international trade and rocked markets”, both in Malaysia and globally, with stock prices and bond yields plunging.
“Ignoring the plight of workers during this difficult period brought about by Covid 19, coupled with the prevailing fragile political situation, may lead to unnecessary industrial restlessness and trigger more challenges to the frayed economy,” he said.
Among MTUC’s proposals for the new stimulus package are ensuring banks defer housing, student and vehicle loan repayments without imposing penalties on those in the B40 and M40 income groups for at least six months.
MTUC also called for all welfare recipients and pensioners in the B40 and M40 income group to be given a one-off payment of RM500, and workers earning below RM4,000 to be given a one-off payment of RM1,000.
It said the payment would help them with their cash flow and in managing their household expenses. It would also give them more disposable cash which, in turn, would help stimulate the economy.
Solomon said the EAC would be the “best forum” to assist the government in dealing with issues arising from the pandemic, and help it draw up coordinated prompt action plans for execution.
“Otherwise, we will be burdened with differing ministerial guidelines that would complicate matters and confuse the nation.”
He said the committee’s main task should be to issue guidelines from various ministries to contain the spread of Covid-19, ultimately producing a comprehensive manual which would be the main reference document for dealing with the pandemic.
Among the EAC’s tasks should be to propose and ensure full implementation of clear mandatory precautionary and preventive guidelines for food intake, outdoor activities, travel within the country, and prohibition of mass gatherings, he said.
MTUC also hoped the EAC would help ensure availability of masks and hand sanitisers and curtail the escalating cost of these items.