Migrant workers’ excessive working hours jeopardise their health

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File photo: sulekha.com

Our nation ought to move away from a minimum wage model to that of a living wage, says K Veeriah.

The instances where workers, including migrant workers, working long hours is a reality that has prevailed in our country.

The case of the migrant workers of Top Glove toiling prolonged hours of work, as reported by FMT, is but one such case. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The fact that workers in Malaysia work overtime, on their rest days and even public holidays is a sad reflection of the economic pressure that they face as a result of the ever-escalating cost of living that prevails in the country. Cases of workers doing more than one job is an openly known fact.

In the equation of wages in our country, the migrant workers are entrapped in bondage as a result of the unjust charges that are imposed on them by uncaring recruitment agents or agencies in their country of origin.

We thus call upon company’s hiring migrant workers to ensure that such hiring is done on a government-to-government basis to dispense with such recruitment agents or agencies.

Working long hours, and by extension enhancing production, results in a deterioration of workers physical and mental health.

If worker works a 48-hour week, he or she would have worked a total of 192 hours in a month. If the maximum permissible overtime is worked, that would be 104 hours per month overtime, meaning a total of 296 hours per month of work – working out to an equivalent of 37 work days a month (296 ÷ 8 hours per day = 37 work days worked over 30 days in a month).

Such an unjust situation must be eradicated! And it can only be done if wages are structured to confirm with a standard living wage.

Our nation ought to move away from a minimum wage model to that of a living wage ie a wage that would enable workers to meet their basic economic needs.

The Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress demands that the National Minimum Wages Council be re-branded to a national living wage council with the absolute jurisdiction to decide on a nationwide living wage.

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The power to decide on such a living wage vested with the government must be abolished as it makes no sense for the council’s very establishment or existence.

K Veeriah is secretary of the Penang division of the MTUC.

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