Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Najib only says policy NOT minimum wage by end 2011 - only hope there will be a policy

The problem with the current BN government is that it places more importance on businesses and employers, and a very low priority on workers.
Whilst the government is very fast in taking actions that will increase the cost of living of Malaysian workers and their families, little has been done to ensure that workers at least get a minimum decent living wage. In 2009, the government already knew that about 34% of Malaysian workers earned below poverty line wages - and they are not even talking about minimum wages by end 2011 - but merely a policy. When will workers get minimum wages? 2012...or 2020?

At the same time, they speedily take actions to increase cost of living - GST, removal of subsidies, increasing tolls, electrical tariffs, postage charges, etc - but not increasing wages.

Comparatively, the government has done more for the public sector (government employees) which is a minority compared to the majority of workers here in Malaysia. Public sector workers and retirees also continue to enjoy free healthcare (including heart healthcare provided by the national health institute(IJN) ), But, what about the millions of private sector and self-employed workers and their families. Now, if they suffer some heart condition, they need what - RM40,000 - RM60,000?

To demands of minimum wage, the government and employers have always told us that this should be left to 'market forces' - but the problem is that when workers in Malaysia do demand higher wages, government have assisted the employers get other workers who are still willing to accept low wages. 'Market forces' just was not allowed to work. The difficulties in the formation of trade unions, created by the government, also makes it difficult for workers to come together, unite and enter into negotiations collectively for better wages. 
"...only 3% of private sector workers are trade union members, and less than 2% are covered by collective agreements..." - - Star, 22/5/2011, Making a case for minimum wage

"2010 National Employment Returns showed that 34% of Malaysians earned less than RM700...A further 37% nationwide earned between RM700 and RM1,500."

Subramaniam [Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam] said the Ministry's study in 2009 which covered 1.3 million workers in the country showed that 33.8 per cent of them received a salary of less than RM700 per month, which was below the poverty line of RM720 per month.

He said the salary of workers in the manufacturing sector, especially electrical and electronic sectors was RM500-RM550, textiles RM500-RM600, furniture RM550-RM700, plastics RM550-RM650 and rubber gloves RM500-RM650. - Malay Mail, 1/5/2011,Nat'l wage consultation council bill to be tabled at next Parliament sitting
The problem in Malaysia, is not only that wages are not increasing - but in some cases it is really going down.

Fifteen years ago, the salary of a part-time worker at a fast-food restaurant was RM3.80 an hour. Today it is just RM2.80 while the price of a burger has gone up from RM1.20 to more than RM4 in the same period.- Star, 22/5/2011, Making a case for minimum wage

Now, the Malaysian government can immediately set a national floor wage as a matter of policy, even before laws on minimum wages are legislated and passed....and, let us not forget that they just did these for workers in the security industry - the security guards.

The Government had announced that from Jan 1 the minimum wage for security guard was RM700. With overtime, it could go as high as RM1,200. - Star, 14/1/2011, Security guard companies want Govt to waive 6% fee

So, why can't they do the same for all workers - insisting now that employers at the very least pay poverty rate wages as a minimum.

But, some will argue that there is no law - so how can it be enforced. Simple, when any company wants to operate any business, the State government and the Local Councils can impose conditions - and, so easily one of these conditions will be a requirement to pay all workers employed in the said business to be paid a certain minimum living wage. If the businesses and companies do not do so, then naturally these licenses and permits could be revoked. So, this means that we need not wait for the passing of Federal laws - State governments and Local Councils have the power to ensure minimum wages are paid to workers, etc...Maybe, the Pakatan Rakyat States can take the lead.

SUBANG JAYA, June 14 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today he hoped a minimum wage policy could be implemented by year end.

He said that he was informed by the Human Resource Ministry that the National Wage Consultation Council Bill 2011 would be presented to the Cabinet for a decision before it is tabled at the current Parliament sitting.

"If passed (by Parliament), we will set up the council. I hope by year end the minimum wage policy can be in place," he said when addressing Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) members at a dinner here Tuesday night.

Also present were MTUC president Mohd Khalid Atan, Deputy Human Resource Minister Datuk Maznah Mazlan and Umno Youth head Khairy Jamaluddin.

Najib said besides the policy, several other matters like cost of living allowance (Cola), retirement and foreign workers which were raised by Mohd Khalid in the latter's speech would also be referred to the council to be studied in detail.

"What was raised by the MTUC president has the government's support and needs to be pursued. If the council feels they are justified, they will be brought to the Human Resource Minister for consideration so that the appropriate decisions can be taken for the good of all," he said.

He said the government had taken several initiatives that showed its caring attitude with examples being the salary hikes for postmen and security guards.

Najib also praised the umbrella union for private sector employees for the role it played in helping Malaysia to be where it is today.

"To the 12 million workers in the country, I congratulate you for the success in transforming Malaysia from an agricultural state to a modern industrialised nation within a generation," he said, adding that their next challenge was to join the government in making the country a high income nation by 2020.

He said the days of confrontational positions between unions and employers like in the 60s and 70s were long gone and that today it was symbiotic relationships that produced the best results for everyone.

At the function, Najib also launched a complaints portal for workers that was developed in collaboration with Umno Youth.

BERNAMA, 14/6/2011, PM Hopes Minimum Wage Policy Can Be In Place By Year End

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