10,000 retrenched so far this year, says MEF

PETALING JAYA: About 10,000 people have been retrenched as of July this year, painting a grim picture for the future employment market.

Malaysian Employers' Federation (MEF) president Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan (pix) said this was due to numerous factors, including the declining value of the ringgit, escalating prices and the lack of new job openings.

"Also, the government has decided not to employ new staff, save for critical or sensitive posts," said Shamsuddin, adding that this would affect about 10% of the job market.

He regarded the export sector as being the worst hit. "Importing raw materials has become more expensive, and the low value of the ringgit is making it difficult for us to import goods," he said.

Describing it as a vicious cycle, Shamsuddin said: "Price increases mean consumers are more careful in spending, which in turn leads to an economic slowdown as the domestic market lacks necessary stimulation."

This means a shrinking job market, where the few jobs available are predominantly contractual instead of permanent.

"Confidence issues still dog Malaysian employees, employers and consumers in how they interact with each other.

"Unless the authorities come up with better fiscal policies and tax incentives, we will have to weather the storm," he said.

National Union for Bank Employees (NUBE) president J. Solomon said some 4,000 employees in the banking sector have been laid off since Jan 1, and there is likely to be another 4,000 more job cuts if the situation remains unchanged.

"Change is now dependent on the government's policy," he said, noting that banks were also responsible for the retrenchments.

Solomon said: "The layoffs are due to the banks' desire to reduce operation costs."

"Outsourcing is a popular trend. Employees who survive retrenchment are usually offered salary increases of 20-30% but they are then transferred to outsourced companies where they become vulnerable to exploitation, since these companies are not unionised," he said.

Solomon emphasised the need for tripartite discussions between Bank Negara Malaysia, the Finance Ministry and the various banks to resolve this.

"Otherwise, I fear this pattern could spill over, with other industries following suit," he said.

A more positive outlook came from Mohd Jafar Abdul Majid, president of the National Union of Telecommunications Employees (NUTE).

"My personal estimation stands at 10,000 job cuts since January, if you were to include the ongoing MAS exercise," he said.

Despite the oil and gas industry being hit the hardest, Jafar said the cuts were less drastic than they appeared.

"It is a matter of survival, and hoping for the best," said Jafar, who is also the former vice-president of the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC).

He was hopeful the proposed unemployment insurance scheme currently being negotiated by MEF, MTUC and the Human Resources Ministry would kick off soon.

"At least the retrenched can expect government aid for six months to a year while they seek new employment," said Jafar.