Too many low-paying jobs being created in Sarawak

3
1708
Kuching skyline - Photo credit: sarawak.gov.my

Tens of thousands of jobs can be found in the timber and oil-palm sectors in the state, but few locals want to work for such low pay, points out Andrew Lo.

We refer to the ultra defensive and paranoid response by PBB information chief Idris Buang, who resorted to personal attacks and wild accusations against union officials instead of tackling issues affecting workers in Sarawak.

Unlike him, we have no doubt that his statement has the full approval of PBB’s top leadership and was fully deliberated by their top level meeting. As he is the information chief, we must take his views as the official view of PBB.

It is shocking that the backbone party of the Sarawak state government resorted to personal attacks that illuminate their failure to engage constructively with workers in Sarawak on fundamental issues. It doesn’t understand what the difference is between the creation of jobs and the creation of decent jobs.

There is absolutely no point in creating tens of thousands of jobs in timber and oil palm plantations only to have more than 80% filled by foreign workers. The oil palm industry’s own figures state that more than 80% of employees are only paid minimum wages, despite some working for more than 10 years.

READ MORE:  Malaysian workers deprived of RM2,700 as minimum wage

He refuses to address why not a single one out of the 29 ministers and assistant ministers is responsible for labour, despite their insisting that any laws relating to labour must have the consent of the state government.

The Sarawak division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress has called for the setting up of such an important position since the time when our current governor was the chief minister and then during the tenure of the late Adenan Satem and of the current chief minister. Please do an online search of all our statements on this issue. We would be happy to provide Idris with hard copies.

He refuses to explain why 10 out of the 17 poorest districts are in Sarawak even though we rank third in Gross Domestic Product. Perhaps he should know that even now, more than 86% of Sarawakians earn below RM5,000 a month. Household debt comes up to 146% of household income, which means that for every ringgit we earn, we already owed RM1.46.

He talks about MTUC being a strategic partner. But our numerous suggestions and memorandum to the state government to set up a state level human resources consultative platform for the tripartite partners – government, employers and employees – to find ways to move forward has fallen on deaf ears.

The state government has been making arbitrary decisions on issues affecting Sarawak workers. It has also taken positions on the ongoing amendments of labour laws without seeking the views of Sarawakian workers. It may have consulted with employers but never the workers. Perhaps PBB only listens to employers’ views.

READ MORE:  Indigenous communities call for halt to native land encroachment

We have not seen any statement from PBB or its elected representatives urging employers especially timber companies to increase the minimum wages so that they are the same as in the peninsula. This is despite the cost of living being much higher in Sarawak.

Instead we have seen statements by elected representatives in government parroting employers’ calls to delay the implementation of minimum wages. This, despite 48.1% of workers in Sarawak at that time earning below the poverty line of RM800.

Even when the state government organised a forum to seek ways to resolve the shortage of workers in the oil palm industry, it deliberately denied any representation for workers to air their view. They only invited employers and industry players. This is arrogance at its worst.

We are not expecting the state government to create decent jobs by itself, but it must have the wisdom and be smart enough to design long-term policies to attract investments and encourage the creation of decent jobs.

But instead of creating high value and decent jobs, we allowed tens of thousands of low-wage and unskilled workers. All these directly drove Sarawakians to seek employment outside Sarawak, resulting in quite a few being conned.

With their overwhelming majority in the Sarawak State Assembly, we would expect PBB not to be so defensive and paranoid and to treat every criticism as a political conspiracy or having a political agenda.

Instead, PBB should be thankful that the MTUC has always been apolitical. We will work with any parties to advance the economic interest of local workers which will lead to higher domestic consumption and therefore enhance economic growth and development.

READ MORE:  Cambodia offers better job prospects than Sarawak?

Andrew Lo is secretary of the Sarawak division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress.

Thanks for dropping by! Apart from the views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed, the opinions in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation of whatever amount you can afford to sustain Aliran. Please make payments to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.

And why not become an Aliran member or subscribe to our FREE newsletters.

3
Join the conversation

avatar
750
3 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
3 Comment authors
Conlay Chan KhungLeiNarim ByofFrank Meeng Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Conlay Chan KhungLei

Some Big taukes companies just giving minimum wages only for both fellow chinese & natives ….

Narim Byof

The problem is that good jobs which are offered by foreign companies that have the high level expertise and high technology are taken by non-Malaysians.

Frank Meeng

Mereka[ kerajaan] sudah berjanji dengan Pelabur hendak jaminkan tenaga kerja yang murah…the golden goose are laying rotten eggs.