MTUC says government has betrayed B40 group over new minimum wage

NST Online

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has accused the government of betraying the nation's low-income earners or those in the B40 bracket in fixing the new minimum wage. Its secretary-general J Solomon said an increase of RM50 from RM1,000 was a pittance dumped on labour while an increase of RM130 for Sabah and Sarawak still stands below the poverty line of RM1,180 in Sabah. He said after 18 months delay in the first review and another six months delay in the second review totaling to 24 months demonstrates the attitude of utter disregard to poor workers who are treated with mean minimum wage increase. “Malaysian workers in this country have been suffering since late 1970s. “We voted out the former government with the hope of having a government that would understand the predicament of the B40 population,” he said in a hard hitting statement. Solomon said basic human rights of the B40 population had been blatantly violated even with the new government. Accusing the government of being “insensitive and indifferent” to the continuous sufferings of the B40 workers, he said Malaysia was the only country in this region that ratified ILO Convention 138 Minimum Wage Fixing. “However, unfortunately they do not comply with the basic requirement of the convention in fixing minimum wage,” he said. The government yesterday announced that effective Jan 1, 2019, minimum wage would be standardised at RM1,050 a month, or RM5.05 an hour. Solomon, who a day before the May 9 general election, had urged the country's 14 million-strong workforce to support Pakatan Harapan, lamented how the low income group could not afford a decent life with the low wages and high cost of living. He said the low income group survived day to day on borrowed income with no savings for the future while the top management continues to draw salaries “beyond ones imagination.” He added that the abolishment of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) did not significantly bring down prices and the introduction of the Sales and Services Tax (SST) will hurt the B40 resulting in further indebtedness. He argued that while the previous government did not take implement steps to ensure equitable distribution of wealth amongst Malaysians, the new government appeared to be no different. “Businesses have long lost sight of their obligations in respecting human rights throughout their operations and this government is just assisting them further in this aspect. “The minimum wage (increase) of only RM50 demonstrates the repeated pampering of businesses just like the former government while disregarding the B40 population's rights to livelihood. “The injustice done to the B40 population by the former government in delaying the 2015 review of the minimum wage has not been addressed by the new government. Now there is a further delay of six months with the minimum wage coming into effect only in January 2019,” he said. Solomon said the new government has failed to take into consideration the realistic living wage for the workers announced in Bank Negara's 2017 annual report while the salaries of the top management continue to increase based on the so-called market rate. “Even migrant workers in the construction sector would not work for anything lesser than RM70 per day while the proposed minimum wage of RM35 per day is forced on local workers. “It is also reported that in 2016 even the Rohingya refugees refused to work for RM1,500 per month and in 2018 the new government is introducing beggary of RM1,050 as minimum wage,” he said. Solomon said MTUC viewed the new government as having failed the poor workers while the arrogance and disregard to labour demonstrated by the previous government now appears to be re-emerging by the actions of the new administration. “MTUC wishes to remind that it would be the height of stupidity for any government to show disrespect to labour and allow labour to be manipulated as workers would unite to fight anyone who undermines the dignity of workers,” he said. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd