New Deal for Workers of Malaysia

Speech by DAP Candidates for Serdang State by-election, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, who is also DAP Organising Secretary, at the fifth DAP Serdang by-election public rally held at Serdang Lama on Wednesday, 11th December 1968 at 8 p.m.

The workers have been one of the most neglected sections of the population in the last 13 years of Alliance rule.

This is because the Alliance government is a feudal-compradore government which has no sympathy or understanding of the suffering and hardships of the working class.

Over the years, the plight of the workers have worsened, as a result of the deteriorating economic situation, the spiralling unemployment and a steeply rising cost of living.

When there is chronic mass unemployment, coupled with an anti-labour government and managements, the lot of the workers is an intolerable one.

I need mention one instances to show the anti-labour character of the Alliance government.

Since independence in 1957, the Alliance government has persistently refused to recognise MAY DAY as a paid public holiday for workers.

In progressive countries, MAY DAY is the annual occasion for society to reaffirm the dignity of labour and for workers to re-dedicate themselves to the noble task of labour and national reconstruction.

This is not the case in Malaysia. While their fellow workers celebrate MAY DAY in other countries, Malaysian workers are reminded that they do not have an equal place under the Malaysian sun.

The refusal of the Alliance government to make MAY DAY a paid public holiday is evidence of two things:

Firstly, that the Alliance government neither respect the dignity of labour, nor recognise the indispensable role the Malaysian workers play in producing the nation’s wealth and prosperity;

Secondly, that the Malaysian workers have still a long way to go before they secure for themselves an equal and honourable place in Malaysian society.

We have a Minister for Labour, who should more appropriately be called the Minister for Employers, for he is more concerned about the cause of management than the cause of labour.

During the mass retrenchment of estate workers last year, when tens of thousands of estate workers were thrown out of jobs, Mr. V. Manickavasagam flew to Geneva to enjoy European cocktails and dinners instead of staying in the country to find emergency measures to relieve the suffering and hardships of the retrenched workers.

According to government figures, from 1966 to July this year, a period of two and a half years, about 60,000 estate workers had been thrown out of jobs. What has the government done to help these 60,000 estate workers , who together with their dependents, will exceed a quarter of a million people?

This figure does not include the retrenchments in other sectors of the economy, or the annual increase of 100,000 school-leavers, looking for jobs, many of whom failing to find any.

The government and the managements are very happy with the present labour situation because the anti-labour laws of the Alliance have made organised labour in Malaysia weak and ineffective.

Out of every ten Malaysian workers, eight are not union members. Year by year, the total number of union membership decreases.

The majority of Malaysian workers work inhuman hours, under intolerable conditions, and for little pay.

There are tens of thousands who work 12 hours a day, who have no public holidays, or annual leave, who are paid at the daily rate of $1.50 or $2.00, who do not enjoy medical benefits, gratuity and other fringe benefits, and who are completely at the mercy of the employers.

Managements are given a free hand to victimise and dismiss union officials. Recently, the General Secretary of a union was dismissed on the spot merely because he informed the management of the union decision warning the company not to harass workers.

From the first day of the formation of the DAP, we had been fighting for the cause of labour, as we want to abolish all forms of inequalities.

One of the objects of the DAP Constitution stated: “To abolish the unjust inequalities of wealth and opportunities in the present system; to establish an economic order which will give all citizens the right to work and full economic returns for their labour and skill; to ensure a decent living, and social security to all those who through sickness, infirmity or old age can no longer work.”

The DAP is the only political party to form a Labour Bureau to give greater attention to the problem of workers, particularly the unorganised.

Twenty-five per cent of the members of the DAP Central Executive Committee are or had been active trade unionists, including myself.

The cause of labour is the cause of the DAP and of all democratic socialists.

This is why in the Serdang 20 Points, the DAP’s by-election pledge, five points directly concern the welfare of workers.

The DAP will work for:

1. State Social Security for the aged, infirm, sick, redundant and unemployed, to ensure that no Malaysian starve or go in want through no fault of his own;

2. Minimum Wage for all manual workers, whether in estates, mines or factories, to ensure that every worker gets a fair wage, to lead a decent and human life for himself and his family;

3. Revision of labour laws in the country to protect workers from management victimisation, intimidation, arbitrary actions and to safeguard the worker’s fundamental rights.

4. Creation of more job opportunities to solve the growing problem of unemployment.

5. Legislation to control fragmentation of rubber estates to ensure that no worker suffers as a result of it.

The DAP calls on the Alliance government to immediate recognise MAY DAY as a paid public holiday, to commemorate the dignity of labour, and we will continue to press for it until we succeed.

Audited by: Joyce T. and Faiz M.