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Low-wage workers: Are we truly a caring society?

Why can’t Malaysian and migrant workers who perform demanding work be given a decent wage?

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As we struggle with the ‘new normal’ and the unimagined hardships that come along with Covid, Aliran recently posted a Freedom Film Network video Bila Kami Bersatu, which deserves nationwide attention.

As we watch the video, several truths strike our souls.

After six decades of independence, the struggles of Malaysian workers today do not differ from the stories we heard of and witnessed among the Malayan rubber tappers and tin miners of the past.

Even in this era, Malaysian workers, largely from the marginalised low-income group, have to shed so many tear to ask for a meagre salary increase.

In developing modern Malaysia, many workers cannot even be paid a decent living wage to get by in tough times.

The hospital cleaners are mostly Malaysian women, many of them single parents with little education. 

That they have to struggle for their fundamental rights, a decent income and their personal safety tells us that this country is not that caring after all.

This video clearly exposes how Vision 2020 (now postponed to 2025) is only a decoration.

We do not have policies in place that raise the dignity of labour and the quality of life. All that matters for the business community is making more profits and giving out perks for political patronage.

If local companies can be so cold and insensitive towards Malaysian workers, are we surprised at how some employers treat their migrant workers?

What’s the point of trying to become a developed, world-class nation when we remain blind, uninvolved and lacking in compassion to the millions of workers, local and migrant, quietly struggling with pathetic working conditions, low salaries and union busting?

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This video exposes an ugly truth about corporate greed and government abetment.

Despite so much emphasis on religion and its rituals, what is happening on the business and political landscape does not match up with the piety being peddled.

For a long time, we have been told repeatedly that Malaysians do not want to take on dirty and dangerous jobs.

But this video tells us the plain, painful truth. Many Malaysians are taking on such jobs. They are risking their health and that of their families as they take on the arduous task of hospital cleaners. 

Do we not hold policymakers accountable? Do we not hold corporate and business owners answerable?

The salaries of politicians can be increased without them even having a union to fight for them. Partisan politicians can be appointed to lucrative positions posts even if they do not have the qualifications for the jobs.

We can build mega-structures and sell them for unbelievable profits. There is no end to the accolades and proclamations that Malaysia is actually a prosperous nation.

So why can’t Malaysian and migrant workers who are humble enough to perform such demanding work be treated with compassion, love, care and concern?

We should demand answers.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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