The Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) is shocked at the human resources minister’s statement that the current minimum wage of RM1,100 is too high for some sectors.
We would like to remind the minister about the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s pledge of a minimum wage of RM1,500 in its manifesto.
The minister also needs to be reminded, lest he is suffering from memory loss, about PH’s commitment to raise the minimum wage to RM1,500 over the government’s term of office.
The minister should look at the indisputable fact that Malaysian workers do not even earn a living wage.
A Bank Negara report pointed out that working people in Malaysia ought to be paid a living wage instead of a minimum wage. The report, as we recollect, said in nutshell that workers are not paid a decent living wage that would be adequate to cope with the present cost of living, let alone leave behind any residual income for home ownership etc.
The fact that workers, Malaysians or migrants, work excessive overtime hours to meet their economic needs was exposed in the cases of workers employed in the rubber glove manufacturing sector recently. This stands as evidence that the wage levels of the working population are grossly inadequate so much so the situation was equated to bonded labour!
The vast majority of the working citizens in the bottom 40% and middle 40% of the population are stuck with low incomes. It does not help if the the PH government claims it is beholden to the present structure.
The government has to execute economic programmes to empower these people. The minister and the PH government should be reminded that any failure to this would not augur well for the future of the government.
Penang MTUC therefore calls upon the minister to refrain from making statements without considering the workers’ wider concerns over the issue of a decent living wage.
K Veeriah is secretary of the Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress.