Friday, February 12, 2016

One minimum wage for all (Malaysian Insider, 9/2/2016)

One minimum wage for all – Charles Hector

Dividing and weakening the workers movement is normally done by employers, but alas in Malaysia, it is our Barisan Nasional (BN) government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that may be doing this.
Why a different minimum wage for workers in the public sector and those in the private sector?
Are we saying that private sector workers contribute less to Malaysia?

After all, the bosses of public sector workers are Malaysians, including the private sector workers. It's odd that now, the "bosses" receive less. Najib announced the minimum wage increase for private sector workers in the peninsula from RM900 to RM1,000, and from RM800 to RM920 for those in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.

The minimum wage does not apply to domestic workers. Najib, who is also the finance minister, announced the minimum wage of civil servants to begin at RM1,200 and to take effect from middle of next year.

Why the lower minimum wages for workers in Sabah and Sarawak, more so when the cost of living in Sabah and Sarawak is higher than the cost of living in Peninsular Malaysia? Is it because Sabahan and Sarawakian workers deserve so much less?

In my opinion, minimum wage should be the same for all workers in Malaysia, and reasonably it should be higher than RM1,200.

Why higher? The Malaysian government has already admitted that individuals earning less than RM2,000 or families earning less than RM4,000 are earning not enough, hence the government provides financial assistance in the form of the BR1M programme.

Sadly, the public sector workers and/or their unions never came out and protested much, asking that the minimum wages for all workers, including private sector workers, should be the same.

Likewise, workers in Peninsular Malaysia never protested much demanding that their fellow workers in Sabah and Sarawak should be enjoying the same minimum wages.

Is worker solidarity dead? Is there no workers movement? Has it become so weak?

We can easily blame the government, the laws and policies, but at the same time blame should also lie with workers and also the trade unions.

If workers unite and act, governments will have to change law and policy, but if they choose to just accept what is given, then...

If this be the reality, will fellow workers even in the same union come out and protest when their fellow workers are being discriminated or exploited?

When 6,000 workers in Malaysia Airlines were terminated, what did the remaining 14,000 do? What did the 6,000 do? Is that an indication of the state of workers, "workers solidarity", unions?

If this is how local workers respond to the discriminatory treatment accorded to other local workers, what then will the response be when it comes to migrant workers?

Have Malaysian workers and unions become self-centred, only concerned for themselves?

Matters that must be reflected, for we all must be willing to stand up for human rights and justice for others.
Choosing ignorance or indifference or not doing anything is not what a good person would do.

All is not lost for many in Malaysia still do fight for human rights and justice for everyone. They are human rights defenders. Without fear or favour they struggle on to uphold the cause of justice.

And, the Malaysian government must really stop trying to divide workers through differential treatment, and must treat workers equally. They must stop weakening workers and their unions.

Businesses should not be the primary concern of government. It must be the people including workers. –, February 9, 2016.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider

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