By Melati Mohd Ariff
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 (Bernama) — Aini cuts a forlorn-looking figure as she looked out from the window of her 13th floor apartment at the city’s majestic landmark, the Petronas Twin Towers, here.
Aini who has been working for some years with an international financial institution in the city is worried that soon she might have to pack her bags and head for her home village as news have filtered through that many workers would have to face retrenchment from their jobs or in more polite words, the ‘voluntary separation scheme’ (VSS).
The year 2009 is indeed going to be bleak for many workers like Aini and others in the private sector as the world braces itself for an economic downturn and retrenchment looms ahead.
GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS
Many have anticipated that a huge economic crisis would hit the globe in 2009 as the indicators were already there.
According to recent news reports, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) projected that 25 million workers would lose their jobs amidst the world economic crisis by the year 2010.
OECD that spreads its wings over 30 nations including all the industrialised countries also projected that economic recovery would take place at the end of 2009 and the ensuing year would witness a weak global amplification.
Earlier, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated that the number of those unemployed globally would rise by 20 million, to hit the 210 million mark by the end of 2009.
BLEAK ON THE HOME FRONT
Meanwhile on the home front, the retrenchment scenario is expected to be as bad.
The picture is expected to be as gloomy with more than 4,700 workers expected to lose their jobs within the first three months of this year as employers are expected to be preparing to reduce costs and losses in anticipation of the world economic crisis.
Recent news reports quoted Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam as saying that 102 employers had stated that they would be retrenching their workers in stages from January while according to the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), between 200,000 and 400,000 workers are expected to lose their jobs this year.
For 1,500 employees of Western Digital (M) Sdn Bhd, Samajaya Free Industrial Zone in Kuching, Sarawak, they were among the early batches of workers to receive the ‘rude shock’ even before the arrival of the year 2009.
The United States-based maker of hard discs had ceased its operations in December 2008, citing the economic downturn as the reason behind the move.
Foreign workers are no exception to this as Dr Subramaniam has been reported as saying that the retrenchment exercise would also see 2,000 foreigners losing their jobs within these two months.
Dr Subramaniam also expressed his hope that employers would use the retrenchment exercise as a last resort when dealing with the economic downturn.
The minister voiced this wish in his speech at the function to launch the Manual on Workers Retrenchment Management at the Johor Manpower Department in Johor Baharu last month.
He also launched the Workers’ Retrenchment Operations Room that functions worldwide. The help line is 03-88905015/88905016/88905017/88905018 during office hours.
In the mean time, among the early measures to avoid being retrenched are reducing the claims for overtime pay as well as for more off-days and wages.
At the same time, the government is monitoring the situation and hopes that the employers are not taking the opportunity to sack workers by using the economic crisis excuse.
However if there is no way out from the retrenchment exercise, the workers welfare should be taken care of and they should be given the proper compensation and other benefits deemed proper by the country’s labour laws.
Any voluntary or temporary retrenchment scheme should be reported to the Manpower Department at least 30 days before the exercise.
“The locals are being retrenched, why not the foreigners”.
That could be on the mind of many Malaysians referring to the presence of 1.2 million migrant workers in Malaysia. This represents some 20 percent of the number of workers in this country.
Meanwhile, the Human Resources Ministry is considering to freeze the recruitment of foreign workers. This is seen as a measure to assist the local workers who had lost their jobs including those retrenched from their employment in Singapore.
According to recent news reports, some half million workers including Malaysians are facing the retrenchment exercise in the island republic.
As of November 2008, about 28,000 of the unemployed were registered with the Manpower Department and 6,000 were reported to have found jobs.
However for those who lost their jobs, this is not the end of the world as the government has announced that it would cooperate with the public and private sectors to provide training programmes for the retrenched workers.
Under these programmes, the retrenched workers would be trained to acquire new skills for jobs in other fields like hospitality, tourism and information communication technology (ICT).
It has been reported that the Cabinet has given its nod for RM100 million allocations for the retraining scheme.
In this aspect the retrenched workers should be bold enough to accept changes and not be too choosy when picking jobs. They should also be willing to venture into other fields like entrepreneurship, as the government provides various incentives in this sector.
Among these are the RM45 million fund provided by the Rural and Regional Development Ministry to produce more cottage industries entrepreneurs for 2009.
In this aspect, the retrenched workers could make 63-year-old Mohammed Chin, named the recipient of the Tunas Mekar Entrepreneur Award 2008 (men’s category) as their model.
Mohammed who became handicapped after an accident has not allowed his disability to prevent him from becoming a successful entrepreneur.