Deadly virus of misinformation, be it advice to drink hot water to kill Covid-19 or a call to rejoice when workers are told to use their meagre retirement savings to save themselves while the government bails out corporations.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress today took Senior Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali to task after he praised the government for allowing Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributors to utilise their savings to tide them over the coronavirus outbreak,
MTUC secretary-general J Solomon accused Azmin of spreading the “deadly virus of misinformation” with the intention of wooing public support.
“MTUC is not interested in the political manoeuvrings of our leaders on either side of the political fence,” Solomon said in the statement.
“However, the leaders, especially those in the government of the day, have a moral responsibility not to mislead the rakyat, many of whom are low-salaried workers who have struggled to stay afloat even well before Malaysia was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
MTUC had strongly denounced the government’s move to have workers tap into their retirement savings to support themselves in the months ahead.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had announced yesterday that EPF contributors aged below 55 could withdraw from their Account 2 up to RM500 monthly for the next 12 months.
The government’s move comes as businesses are affected by the outbreak of the disease and many are unable to work due to the movement-control order (MCO).
MTUC is against the move, saying the government should use its reserves to help people mitigate the economic cost of Covid-19 instead of allowing EPF contributors to withdraw their savings.
“In recent meetings with government officials, MTUC had asked one basic question – what is the government doing directly to help workers? Surely the answer cannot be one that is on the table now – that workers use their retirement funds to mitigate the hardships of Covid-19,” Solomon said.
“Surely this is not ‘good news’ for workers, as Azmin attempted to portray,” he said, adding that Khazanah Research Institute had said that nearly half of EPF contributors have insufficient savings to outlast the economic fallout from Covid-19, what more to sustain them in old age.
He said many parties have urged this new government to deliver on its pledge to “save the country” and this must begin by its devising broader measures to help vulnerable workers.
Solomon added the government must not be seen as asking them to draw down their retirement funds to survive and at the same time, pump in billions of taxpayers’ ringgit to bail out businesses each time an economic crisis happens.
“MTUC has proposed a slew of feasible proposals to help steer workers through the current health and economic crisis.
“These measures do not involve pay cuts, loss of jobs or utilisation of retirement savings. What the proposals do require, is for the government to show political will and empathy for the plight of the workers,” Solomon said.
He pointed out that misinformation is a deadly virus, be it advice to drink hot water to kill Covid-19 or a call to rejoice when workers are told to use their meagre retirement savings to save themselves while the government bails out corporations.
“Therefore, we urge all leaders to stop such misinformation immediately and deliver measures that truly reflect an earnest desire to save the livelihood of workers.” – TMI