Saturday, May 21, 2022

Banking union rejects pressure from politicians to withdraw from EPF

The National Union of Bank Employees says insisting that EPF allow continuous withdrawals is a 'nonstarter' if Umno sincerely wishes to serve the people.

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The country’s largest union of bank workers today agreed with the move to refuse further withdrawals from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), urging Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob not to succumb to “short-term popular political pressure” from “certain politicians”.

The National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) said the schemes and incentives announced would assist those affected by the recent floods, and that once insufficient, the government should increase its allocation of resources accordingly.

“But to be obsessed with dipping into the workers’ retirement fund during every disaster is a sign of an incompetent government, and sadly the said politicians are from the ruling government,” NUBE general secretary J Solomon said.

In a statement, he urged the politicians in question to remember that significant withdrawals had already been made over the past two years due to the financial impact of Covid-19.

He also took aim at Umno, saying many of the contributors left with less than RM1,000 in their retirement savings were from the community represented by the party.

“The Umno government of more than 60 years failed to uplift the wages of workers to match Singapore and other neighbouring countries, which were either behind us or with us at one time,” he added.

Saying a lack of political will to fight institutional corruption had led to other problems compounded by issues such as unfair labour laws, Solomon added that the misappropriation of money from Malaysia’s sovereign fund “by certain leaders” had also retarded income growth for ordinary citizens.

“NUBE recognises some of the good policies Umno introduced during its tenure as the main ruling coalition partner, but insisting that the EPF should allow continuous withdrawals, even for flood victims, is a nonstarter if the party wishes to serve the people sincerely after a bad show in the last election,” he said.

“To gain credibility, the party should be urging the government to use its resources to give genuine assistance to flood victims and close the wide gap of inequality created during its 60-year administration.”

Ismail in his New Year’s address had announced additional aid for those affected by the massive floods which hit areas in several states, displacing tens of thousands.

But calls have also continued for the government to allow further EPF withdrawals, led by former prime minister Najib Razak who attacked Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz for refusing to budge on the matter.

“Don’t listen to the advice of the outdated PN finance minister,” Najib had said, referring to the previous Perikatan Nasional government.

“Listen to the people. A final special withdrawal. After that, focus on rebuilding the savings of EPF contributors with low balance. There are many ways.”

Solomon however welcomed the stand by Ismail, Zafrul and the EPF itself which recently warned that the country’s social protection had been pushed to the limit after the withdrawals allowed due to the Covid-19 crisis.

“NUBE certainly sympathises with the plight of the flood victims, but dipping into the workers’ retirement fund during each disaster is not a wise approach,” he said.

“It is a universally accepted view that governments at both the federal and state levels are responsible for ensuring the availability of sufficient basic necessities and their timely distribution, to alleviate the hardships faced by flood victims.”

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