KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Najib Razak announced a slew of promises including an immediate hike in minimum wages, mandatory paternity leave and over RM60 million (S$20.3 million) in grants to Malaysia's 14-million strong labour force if his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition is returned to power on May 9.
Amid reports that support from the Malay Muslim majority is ebbing for his Umno-led alliance, PM Najib also insisted that workers are obliged under Islam to show "wala" (loyalty) to the government.
"What more, a government leadership that has put in so much effort to implement initiatives to protect the welfare and prioritise the public interest.
"Islamic scholars are of the view, given Malaysia's situation today, 'wala' is compulsory, to be given to the current government," he said at a Labour Day event in Kuala Lumpur.
PM Najib also announced that a special grant of RM3 million would also be given to the Malaysian Trade Unions Congress (MTUC), to be distributed to about 300 private sector unions under the umbrella body. "God willing, after May 9, I can give more," he said, referring to Polling Day.
MTUC chief Abdul Halim Mansor told The Straits Times that workers were still suffering under rising cost of living and lack of housing, issues that surveys have shown are top of voters' minds.
"But at least the government is trying to help and Najib is sincere," he said, adding that about 90 per cent of union demands have been met by the Najib administration.
This includes setting up a minimum wage framework, which now stands at RM1,000 and RM920 monthly for Peninsular and East Malaysia respectively. BN's manifesto promises to increase this to RM1,500 if it wins another five-year term.
But Mr Najib promised that a new floor wage would be announced this year if BN prevailed in next week's vote: "If you want a higher rate, you know what to do."
Also dependent on a BN victory is an additional RM60 million allocation to the Social Security Organisation, an agency for worker protection, a boost of nearly 50 per cent that will increase cash aid to workers undergoing training after losing their jobs, and a mechanism to widen social security to include self-employed Malaysians.
The premier also announced RM210 million for human capital development to be allocated immediately.
"We will upgrade the skills of the workforce, in part to avoid small mistakes, such as what happened to some candidates from the other side. They couldn't eve do simple things like filling a form, how can they govern a country" Mr Najib said in a jibe at the number of Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidates who were disqualified on nomination day, although the opposition pact insists that the Election Commission had conspired to hand BN an advantage.