February 23, 2010

'M’sia must have legislation on minimum wage'

'M’sia must have legislation on minimum wage'
I welcome Mr Mustafa Maarof's [the Executive Secretary of Malaysian Airlines Systems Employee's Union (MASEU) ] statement that Malaysia must have legislation on minimum wage. I am surprised to hear that countries like Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam have statutory on minimum wage. Assuming that what Mr Mustafa has cited as example is exhaustive, it means we are one of four ASEAN countries that have not adopted minimum wage. For your information, the ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Good that Mr Mustafa cited these examples because the authority used the same examples to mitigate the impending implementation of the Goods and Services Tax(GST). I must clarify here that I am not against nor supporting GST's implementation in Malaysia at this juncture. As of now, both opposing camps are just making academic arguments. We just have to wait and see what the actual outcome once GST has been implemented. It did well in Singapore. However, one cannot assume the same success in Malaysia because it is all about implementation. A good idea can turn bad if not implemented well and if it turns bad, the lower income rakyat will suffer.
In any case, since the authority reasoned that we needed to implement GST because most ASEAN countries already adopted this system among other reasons, then it will stand to reason that Malaysia should adopt having a legislation on minimum wage because most ASEAN countries already have them! Shouldn't they be consistent?
"In the absence of a statute on minimum wage in Malaysia, employers often insist that wages must be left to be determined by market forces, which in several cases, falls below the poverty line of income," he said(Mustafa)
On Sunday, Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said the government had rejected a demand from Indonesia that its maids be paid a minimum monthly salary of RM800. "We will allow the market to decide on the salary. If we allow one country to set terms, we will also have to entertain the others," he added. – Bernama
For the ministry to brush us aside by quoting an economic textbook principle that implementing minimum wage will drive away investment is shallow, lazy and disrespectful to the intelligence of Malaysians. Why I say lazy and disrespectful? Because they do not even bother to give us a well thought and intelligent reply. Yes, we know that cheap labour attracts foreign investment; stingy companies that want to profit from cheap labour, GENERALLY. However, is this the only business model that the authority can think of? Cheap labour forever? Come on, be innovative. Where are you copying your model from? Bangladesh? You can mitigate the implementation of Minimum Wage by implementing other incentives to attract foreign investment into the country.
Actually, I think most Multi-National Company(MNC) especially the Western and European ones will not and do not object to Minimum Wage. Some of them follow the not so new concept of Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) and are very pro-employee's welfare. I think the most vocal resistance come from within. The business cartel, the towkays(here I use the term to address all business owners regardless of race).
In Sabah especially, I am incensed to see how these towkays can get away from exploiting their employees. Let me cite examples closer to home i.e. Beaufort Sabah,
A local hardware store here in Beaufort Sabah:
1) Operates 7 days a week albeit a half day on Sundays.
2) No paid annual leave is given to its employees. They are only paid a measly RM30.00 if they do not take leave during a month.
3) Get their pay deducted twice if they are absent for more than a day.
4) No medical benefits.
5) Lorry drivers have to pay their own fines if they are caught transporting goods more than the permitted load when it was their supervisors who pressure them to break the law.
6) Sales clerks' pay between RM300 to RM500/-. No commission.
From the examples above, you see our problem is not only on wage related matter, worker's rights are flouted with impunity. Could this be one of the reasons why our young Sabahans ventured out of Sabah and ended up being homeless and jobless in West Malaysia. I used to wonder why these youngsters prefer to work in KL etc instead of staying put when there are jobs available here in Sabah, jobs which most often or not, being filled up by foreigners like Filipinos and Indonesians. I used to think that perhaps their motivation to go 'abroad' is to have fun! Now I change my mind. Perhaps because of this conditions in Sabah that they left. Promises of better pay and better working conditions promised by unscrupulous agents led them there. The foreigners be it legal or illegal do not mind being exploited, they have no choice. The towkays know that there is no one they (the foreigners) can complain to and so they continue on with their reign without any harassment from government agencies who think that these towkays will be equitable to their employees and that these towkays will play by the book and follow the market.
If you read this and agree with me, please help spread the word. Lend your voice to Malaysia Trade Union Congress (MTUC)to fight for workers' right. I think you can agree with me that in this platform, we can all stand united as Malaysians regardless of race or religion :). This affects everyone whether you are Chinese, Malay or Indian.
It seems that MTUC is having a hard time with the Human Resource Ministry, click here to see their memo.

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