Speech by DAP Organising Secretary and Parliamentary Candidate for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at a DAP General elections Public Rally at Mantin, Seremban Barat Parliamentary Constituency, on Monday, 14th April 1969 at 10p.m.
The workers in Malaysia 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 compradors government which has no sympathy or understanding of the suffering and hardships of the laboring class.
Over the years, the plights of the workers have worsened, as a result of the deteriorating economic situation, the spiraling 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 unbearable one.
Unemployment in Malaysia is in the region of 500,000. A senior Cambridge Certificate is no more guarantee for a job, and the S.P.M ( Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) is really Sijil Penganggoran Malaysia ( Malaysian Unemployment Certificate.)
I need mention one instance to show the anti-labour character of the Alliance government.
Since independence in 1957, the Alliance government has persistently refused to recognize 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, the Alliance government does not respect the dignity of labour, and refuse to recognize the indispensable role the Malaysian workers play in producing the nation’s wealth and prosperity.
Secondly, 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 two years ago, 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 measure to relieve the suffering and hardships of the retrenchment workers.
According to government figures, from 1966 to July last year, a period of two and a half years, about 60,000 estate workers were thrown out of jobs. What had the government done to help these 60,000 estate workers, who together with their dependants, exceed a quarter of a million people?
The government and the managements are very happy with the present labour situation, because the anti-labour laws of the country 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 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 and members.
From the first day of the formation of the DAP, we have been fighting for the cause of labour, against all forms of social injustice and economic exploitation.
I understand the pain and suffering of workers because I was for several years actively involved in union work.
The DAP therefore proposes a six-point New Deal for Malaysian workers, and we challenge the Alliance government to endorse them:
1. RECOGNISE May Day as a paid public holiday;
2. COMPREHENSIVE State Social Security for the aged, infirm, sick, redundant and unemployed, in both urban and rural areas, to ensure that no Malaysian starve or go in want through no fault of his own;
3. MINIMUM WAGE for all manual workers, whether in estates, mines or factories, to ensure that every worker gets a fair wage, lead a decent and human life for himself;
4. REVISION of labour laws in the country to protect workers from management victimization, intimidation, arbitrary actions and to safeguard the worker’s fundamental rights;
5. CREATION of more job opportunities to solve the growing problem of unemployment and underemployment;
6. EFECTIVE legislation to control fragmentation of estates to ensure that no worker suffers as a result of it, and the Establishment of a Department of Retrenchments to deal redundancy problems from not only estate, but from commercial sectors and from the British defence withdrawal.