Wednesday 27 November 2013

Johor rest days switch may lead to higher consumer prices

By Seet Sok Hwee, Channel NewsAsia, 25 Nov 2013

The Johor state government's decision to change its weekend days to Friday and Saturday from the traditional Saturday and Sunday, could lead to higher manpower costs, which could in turn lead to higher prices for consumers, said companies and stakeholders in Singapore.

The Singapore Fruits and Vegetable Importers and Exporters Association said goods from Johor Bahru may end up costing slightly more.

That is because workers will still need to work on Fridays to meet demand in Singapore, so workers will have to be given overtime pay.

The same concerns are also expressed by logistics companies as drivers will now have to be recalled on their rest days.

They said the challenge will be in coordinating work times and logistics, as the new rule kicks in just a month before the Lunar New Year.

The Johor State government has announced that come January, weekends will start on Friday instead of Saturday. And the start of the work week will fall on a Sunday.

Dave Ng, chairman of Singapore Transport Association, said: "The mindset of all of us is to work five and a half days, but you have to really convince people because from five and a half days, you are actually working one full week. So you have to change the mindset.

“We can look into alternatives. To get different colleagues to come in for the first 6 months and see how these things go and we will then see how we can adjust to make sure service is not affected."

PM Najib backs Johor’s change in rest days
By Melissa Goh, Channel NewsAsia, 25 Nov 2013

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has backed the Johor state's decision to switch the state's official rest days to Friday and Saturday starting next year.

He added that the federal government will respect the decision and that all government agencies will make the necessary changes.

However, many were caught off guard by the change, and some are questioning why there was not any public consultation.

This is not the first time rest days in Johor have changed.

The Johor state government said that before 1994, Thursdays and Fridays were the official rest days, and locals and businesses adjusted to the change then.

So, it argued that when the weekends are moved to Friday and Saturday starting next year, it shouldn't cause too many problems.

Speaking in Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Najib Razak declined to comment on the impact of the change.
But he promised to look into the interests of all parties concerned.

Mr Najib said: "It's a state decision. So under the constitution we have to respect once the state has made a decision.

“But we are in consultations with the state government and also the private sector, and also looking in terms of investors interests.

“Also, we are creating this UTC, Urban Transformation Centre which will house both the federal and state departments in Johor Bahru and that will be open 7 days a week, so people can make use of that."

Response to the change has been mixed so far.

Some argued that the switch may help boost tourism and productivity in the state, while others complained about the inconvenience caused.

Although the private sector can decide whether to follow suit, it is concerned about higher operating costs from having to pay double on Fridays.

Some also felt that the public should have been consulted.

Lim Chee Wee, former Malaysia Bar Council president, said: "While there's no legal requirement for consultation, I think there is an expectation of consultation. I am sure rulers these days are more open to dissenting views. This is not even a criticism. This is a dissenting view."

Professor Shamsul Amri Baharudin, director (Institute of Ethnic Studies) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), said: "When it is the prerogative of the royal family when it relates to religion, then it becomes a bit difficult, because each state, each Sultan has the prerogative to decide anything related to religion.”

The impending switch has also sparked debate on whether employees who are of Christian faith should be allowed some time off to attend church on Sunday.

Johor Sultan decrees weekends will be on Fridays and Saturdays
Channel NewsAsia, 23 Nov 2013

The Sultan of Johor has ordered that weekends in the state be changed to Fridays and Saturdays effective January 1 next year.

He said Friday was the most auspicious day of the week and Muslims should take advantage of the day to perform more religious deeds.

He said the blessings of Friday began from the night which was usually filled with Yaseen-reading and Muslim men performed the obligatory Friday prayers in the day, and during this time parents must teach their children to follow suit.

"If we observe, currently, Muslim men rush hastily to the mosques for Friday prayers during the short office break, the sermon is used for resting and sleeping.

"When Friday prayer ends, they hurriedly get up and leave the mosque and some cannot even wait for the imam to recite the doa (prayers).

"As such, after scrutinising numerous views, I have decided that the weekend in Johor be changed to Friday and Saturday from January 1, 2014," he decreed.

Sultan Ibrahim said this during a thanksgiving prayer ceremony held in conjunction with his birthday at the Dewan Jubli Intan Sultan Ibrahim in Muar on Saturday.

Johor had made Friday a weekend holiday prior to 1994.

Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Khaled Nordin said he is confident that the switch of the state's rest days will not have huge effect on the state's economy.

This, he said, was because those having Sunday as their rest day could still make dealings with the state government as Sunday would be a normal working day for state government employees.

"I don't think in this current rapid technological development, a switch in weekends will bring huge effect on the state's economy. Furthermore, Johor used to observe Friday as its rest day before 1994," he said.

Mohamed Khaled said that at that time, the private sector was given the option to either follow the state government or observe Saturdays and Sundays as rest days.

"Likewise this time, it is up to them to either follow the state government or not," he added.

As for schools, he said, the switch in rest days would avoid a rush for Muslim students to perform the Friday prayers.

For Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive Datuk Ismail Ibrahim, investments in the area would continue as usual and Irda would improve its system to accommodate the needs of investors.

He said: "We will certainly take necessary actions to coordinate all agencies at the federal level and also the business community. As for now, we do not foresee any disruption to our service."

The communication manager of Puteri Harbour Traders Hotel in Nusajaya, Aidah Abd Rahman, believed that the switch would boost the state's travel industry.

"The hotel welcomes the switch. It certainly is good news for foreign tourists, especially the Singaporeans, who normally cross over to the state on Sunday," she said.

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