31 December 2011 – While many of us are looking forward to a long New Year weekend holiday, for people like Samy and Bernadette, there is little to celebrate.
Samy, like many other private security guards, works 12-hour shifts everyday without a rest day. On New Year, he will be at his post again from 7.00am to 7.00pm. He gets hardly any days off. And if he takes a day off, his wages could be cut by RM30/day. No wonder he looks haggard most of the time.
Whatever happened to the eight-hour work-day that the workers’ movement struggled to achieve? Now, working 12 hours a day has become the norm simply because employers expect it and low wages leave workers with little choice.
Then there’s Bernadette, a 67-year-old church worker who was terminated by her employer, the church (of all people), in July 2011 after serving 19 years. She now has to work odd jobs to cover her expenses.
Now, the former sacristan has taken her plight to the Labour Department and it appears that the matter will be heard in the Labour Court in January. See the account by Dr Chris Anthony.
The church finds itself in an awkward position against a former church worker: its own Catholic Social Teaching calls for the dignity of workers to be upheld.
For many workers, every day is a struggle with the cost of living rising, even as we hear news about how much the GDP is growing and how FDI has reached record levels.
The position of workers has been weakened further with the controversial amendments to the Employment Act. (While we rightly remember the Bersih 2.0 demonstration, the nationwide MTUC protest appears to have slipped from our thoughts. This is a piece I wrote for Aliran Monthly.)