RM50 floor wage rise betrays the poor, says MTUC

Syed Jaymal Zahiid
MTUC secretary-general, J. Solomon, called the raise ‘a pittance’ and a violation of basic rights for the country’s bottom 40 per cent. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 — Putrajaya’s move to raise the minimum wage to RM1,050 betrays the poor, the Malayan Trade Unions Congress (MTUC) said today, as it accused Pakatan Harapan (PH) of reneging on its promise to aid bottom earners.

Its secretary-general, J. Solomon, in a scathing criticism of the policy called the raise “a pittance” and a violation of basic rights for the country’s bottom 40 per cent.

The new floor wage policy, he alleged, directly contravened the international convention on labour rights, which Putrajaya ratified. The International Labour Organisation Minimum Wage fixing convention encourages member states to implement a floor wage policy that covers basic needs.

“Malaysia is the only country in South-east Asia that ratified ILO Convention 138 Minimum Wage Fixing, but unfortunately, they do not comply with the basic requirement of the said convention in fixing minimum wage,” the MTUC leader said.

“An increase of RM50 from RM1,000 is 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.”

The government raised the minimum wage nationwide to RM1,050 a month or RM5.05 per hour effective January 1 next year, the Prime Minister’s Office announced last night following a Cabinet meeting that same evening.

It said the amount was set based on recommendations of the National Wage Consultative Council (MPGN) following its review of the 2016 Minimum Wage Order.

MTUC claimed it was not consulted nor did it agree to the quantum.

“The decision was made without the agreement of MTUC,” he told Malay Mail.

Standardising the minimum wage nationwide is one of 10 PH election pledges it promised to fulfil in 100 days, but it had also said it will raise the amount to RM1,500.

But shortly after taking power, Minister of Human Resources M. Kulasegaran said the government would have to raise the floor wage in phases after employers expressed fear that a drastic increase would send costs spiralling up and force many smaller companies to fold.

The announcement left many PH supporters fuming and prompted accusations that the coalition was copping out on its election promise.

The minimum wage policy was only put in force in 2014 despite Putrajaya having mooted the idea since the turn of the century, a prolonged delay caused by years of stalled negotiations between unions and employers over the quantum.

Businesses had staunchly opposed the move to implement a minimum wage because they said the move would raise operational costs.

Unions, on the opposing end, said wages have failed to match inflation and many workers, especially those in the urban centres, are now living close to the poverty line.

Solomon said PH was elected into power because workers thought their lives could change for the better.

“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.

“We could not afford a decent life with the low wages and high cost of living, continuously being shortchanged from a decent share of the wealth generated with their commitment and contribution.”

Between 2000 and 2008, labour productivity growth was registered at 6.7 per cent while the wage growth was only 2.6 per cent over the same period, economists have pointed out.

Solomon cautioned PH could stand to be voted out just after a term in power should it fail to meet workers’ demands.

“MTUC wishes to remind that it will be the height of stupidity for any government to show disrespect to labour and allow labour to be manipulated as workers will unite to fight anyone who undermines the dignity of workers,” he said.

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