No happy new year for Samy and Bernadette


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.)

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13 Jan 2012 5.35pm

This is what’s RELIGION is all about? They PREACH but they PRACTICE it differently.

2 Jan 2012 11.07am

Anil, I believe your are soliciting suggestions to this article which is a sensitive one to many especially the minorities here. Therefore, I thank you. Well I sympathise with Bernadette and most think she should not be dismissed “of all people” by the church. If she has no one, shouldn’t she be going to the home for the aged like Little Sisters of the Poor or Mount Miriam hospital where she can find rest and do some menial work and be given accommodation. I believe the Home for aged in Penang and the hospital is meant for ALL. I am… Read more »

1 Jan 2012 9.39pm

People who are in power is the people who has money. Those people doesn’t work at thier gate for 12 hours under hot sun or heavy rains and those are the people who doesn’t evan want to think about this at all. Unless people in cabinet or state house feels this pain!!!!!