Sunday, May 01, 2005



by Sdr Kua Kia Soong, Director of SUARAM

SUARAM extends May Day greetings to all Malaysian workers. May Day is a time for all workers to take stock of the current situation not only in this country but also the common weal and destiny of labouring people all over the world.

1. Government's crackdown on migrant labour exposed contempt for labour rights as well as weakness in our economy

The government's recent crackdown on hundreds of thousands of migrant labour exposed not only a callous regard for basic workers' rights and dignity but also a serious flaw in Malaysia's economic fundamentals. It exposed Malaysia's dependence on low-wage migrant labour and the failure all these years to upgrade production through technological innovation and retraining in order to move up the value-added chain.

All these years of export-oriented industrialization, the government has been only concerned with assuaging the terms of multinational companies for a weak labour movement and suppression of wage levels.

Consequently, the country's ability to compete with other Asian rivals is in question. The vast numbers of unemployed graduates (80,000) also point to poor educational planning.

While we demand proper use of our resources and sound investment, Malaysian workers must stand in solidarity with migrant workers for they have also contributed to the nation's wealth. Workers of the world must unite to challenge the forces of global capitalism to ensure that there is peace, social justice, democracy and human rights in every country on this earth.

2. Malaysian workers expect new MTUC leadership to revive labour movement and fight for workers' rights

We extend congratulations to the new leadership of the MTUC under Sdr Syed Shahrir Syed Mohammad and Sdr Rajasekaran. Malaysian workers harbour great hopes that the new MTUC leaders will live up to their expectations to revive the labour movement and restore workers' rights in the country.

The labour laws must be reformed to allow workers to form national unions and to do away with bureaucratic supervision of union affairs and hampering of workers' rights. Today, there are fewer than 10 per cent of Malaysia's 10 million workers who are unionized and many are organized in in-house unions and not in national unions.

We expect the new MTUC leadership to educate workers about their rights and demands; fight for a fair minimum wage for workers in all sectors; women's equal rights and against sexual harassment at the workplace; assist unions in collective bargaining, and support industrial action by workers for better living standards.

3.Defend our public healthcare and water services

It was reported recently in a survey that the most important issue facing Malaysians is the rising cost of living. It has even overtaken crime as an issue of concern by the Malaysian public. We have recently been told that fares for public transport will go up by 0.9 sen to 12 sen per kilometer from May 2005. The diesel shortage has created hardship to industry and people alike and we have been told that the culprits are unscrupulous market fixers.

In the light of this concern, the government would privatize government hospital dispensaries in 2005. Privatised medicine so far has led to higher costs for patients and high profits for corporations. Our still affordable public health care system which has been carefully nurtured through the years must be defended by all Malaysian workers.

In terms of commitment, we note that the Malaysian government's healthcare expenditure (2.7% of GDP) is lower than the WHO recommended 5 per cent of GDP and also lower than Philippines' (3.8%), Thailand's (5.7%) and Singapore's (3.1%). It is high time that a fair and equitable National Healthcare Financing Scheme is introduced to protect all sections of the Malaysian public especially the less well-off.

Likewise, access to water is a human right. Water is a public asset which must not be allowed to fall into private hands. We reiterate our demand that public utilities - health, transport, water - must remain under public ownership and accountability.

4. Control Global Capitalist Forces

The global capitalist forces want free-market transformation of economic systems via liberalization, deregulation and privatization. They must be controlled or we will lose our public assets and this will lead to even more unequal distribution of income and unemployment.

Malaysian workers must demand transparency, accountability and democratic surveillance of government and corporations and more discipline of the private sector. Corrupt patronage networks and monopolies of cronies must be broken up.

5. Planning to Meet Needs

A state which truly represents the workers' interests would make social and economic interventions, guided by a highly mobilized labour movement and a high level of participation by civil society. There would be plural forms of ownership without the unaccountable concentration of private power. This would include a co-operative and communal sector within civil society. Apart from democracy in the wider society, workers should demand democratic forms of participation within the workplace.

Last but not least, Malaysian workers must demand that development is sustainable. Recent environmental disasters, especially the destruction of permanent forest reserves have exposed the government's lack of commitment to sustainable development and allowed state corporations to put profits before people.

6. Restore our Political Rights

Workers' right to organize is bound up with all the other civil liberties which have been denied Malaysians, viz. the right to assemble, associate and freedom of _expression. Workers' cannot enjoy these freedoms while there is detention without trial, while the press is not free and while the police abuse their powers with impunity.

7. Workers demand peace and self-determination

On this May Day 2005, workers of the world demand the withdrawal of US and coalition troops from Iraq. Let the Iraqi people solve their internal problems with the help of the United Nations. The US and western imperialist interests in Middle East oil and other geo-political considerations must not be allowed to cause so much suffering to the Iraqi and Palestinian people.

Unless the conflict in the Middle East is solved justly, there will be no end to the so-called war against terrorism, which has also been used as an excuse by our own government to justify detention without trial and other undemocratic laws in Malaysia.

Solidarity forever.....................

Mesej Hari Pekerja DAP
Mesej Hari Pekerja PKR

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