Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the inaugural meeting of the DAP National Estates Sub-Committee held at Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 4th July 1974 at 8 p.m.
DAP calls on the Minister of Labour and Manpower to introduce legislation in the July meeting of Parliament to abolish contract system in estates
The growing practice in the estates of employing workers on monthly contracts is one of the major social evils in the country, for it is through this contract system that workers are grossly exploited.
Unscrupulous contractors pay workers below union rates, deny them their gazette holidays, avoid EPF payments, deprive them of security of service, by changing workers monthly.
There are some 100,000 to 150,000 contract workers in the estates, and they are paid very low wages, sometimes as low as $40 a month, as compared to the MAPA rates for a tapper at $3.50 per day basic wage.
Contract workers are not very different from slave workers, for contract workers are completely at the mercy force by contract labor, for in this way, the capitalists would be able to escape from their responsibilities as an employer.
The DAP calls on the Minister of Labour and Manpower, Tan Sri Manickavasagam, to give this matter urgent consideration and introduce legislation in Parliament later this month to abolish contract system in the estates.
DAP calls for a special government programme to give land to estate workers
From the government own figures, we can see that the Malaysian Indians, as compared to other racial groups, are worse off economically. Thus, the latest Economic Report of the Treasury showed that the unemployment rate among Malaysian Indians is the highest compared to other races. In fact, the unemployment rate among Indian is double that of the Malays. Thus, the unemployment rate among Indian is 12.3% (as compared to 11% in 1970) while among Chinese it is 7% (as compared to 7.4% in 1970) and among Malays, 6% (as compared to 8% in1970).
The Minister of Labour and Manpower, Tan Sri Manickavasagam, told Parliament in November last year that the government took note of the high rate of unemployment among Indians and that the government would take all appropriate measures to deal with this problem.
I would like to know what measures the government has taken to halve the rate of unemployment among Malaysian Indians. As far as I am aware, nothing has been done.
In fact, more and more Indians are facing unemployment, as a result of retrenchment from the estates, either because of the reduction in rubber estate acreage in conversion to oil palm which requires less labour, or because of efforts by estates to introduce cost saving in production.
As a measure to check and reduce unemployment among Malaysian Indians, the DAP suggest a special government scheme to give land to the estate workers, to reduce the estate workers’ dependence on an industry requiring less and less workers, and making them a settled agricultural community, probably with part-time employment on the estates. These land should be adjoining the estates.
Another proposal which the government can implement is to create new villages to retrenched estate labourers, near economic centres and equipped with modern social infrasbructure such as electricity, piped water, schools, clinics to give to the estate workers a new hope and life.