Saturday, December 7, 2013

MALAYSIA:::Match lawmaker pay hike with RM1500 wage floor, says MTUC

A worker collects palm fruit at a local palm plantation in Shah Alam outside Kuala Lumpur in this file photo. — Reuters picA worker collects palm fruit at a local palm plantation in Shah Alam outside Kuala Lumpur in this file photo. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 — Irked that lawmakers are toying with giving themselves a raise even as the government was increasing tariffs and taxes while cutting subsidies, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) yesterday suggested that minimum wage be lifted to RM1,500 to match. Describing the move as untimely, MTUC president Mohamed Khalid Atan further warned that pressing ahead with such a move will attract backlash from members of the public already straining under steadily rising cost of living.

 “I think the timing is not right, when we are having all these problems: cost of living going up so high and at the same time, they are imposing GST (goods and services tax), now electric tariff has gone up, now even in the KL assessment rate is going up, workers are only given RM900 as minimum wage. “If that’s the case why not push up the minimum wage as well,” he told The Malay Mail Online when contacted. More than just the perception of insensitivity, Khalid said such a move created the very real risk of causing lawmakers to be out of touch with the burdens of their constituents as a result of an income gap.

 “If they carry on with whatever they are doing with the price hikes, they will know how people will respond, people are feeling the pinch already now,” he said. Yesterday, news portal The Malaysian Insider reported that a Bill would be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat to more than double the allowances and remunerations of MPs. The report comes on the heels of a spate of announcements by both the federal and various state governments on proposed or soon-to-be implemented pay raises to be borne by public funds. 

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, who is in charge of parliamentary affairs, later clarified that Parliament will most likely discuss the possibility of raising salaries and allowances for MPs only next year. He said the plan was initially mooted in 2011 under the 2012 Budget, but was scrapped after protests from opposition MPs. The spotlight was thrown on pay raises for lawmakers after Selangor approved multiple-fold increases for its assemblyman and administrators, which will see some such as the Speaker and mentri besar take home between RM22,500 and RM29,500 before allowances.

 Before that, Sarawak also bumped salaries for assemblyman into five-figure territory while Penang last week confirmed more modest increases to the salaries and allowances of its public representatives. In Kuala Lumpur, the City Hall (DBKL) and the Federal Territories and Urban Well-being Ministry are under fire over the plan to raise assessment by between 100 and 250 per cent from existing amounts, which they say was necessary given the 21 years since the previous increase. Most recently, Putrajaya announced a hike in the electricity tariff by an average of 14.9 per cent or 4.99 sen to 38.53 sen for every kilowatt per hour (kWh) in the peninsula, and 5 sen for Sabah and Labuan, effective January 1 next year. Yesterday, Khalid reminded lawmakers to be mindful of the plight facing their constituents as well as the fact that their pay came from public funds. 

“I know the MPs are going to say that they have big responsibilities, but survival is for everybody, not only for them, how are they supposed to carry on with their livelihood,” he said. Malaysia introduced a minimum wage of RM900 for workers in the peninsula and RM800 for those in Sabah and Sarawak in 2012. It was enforced on January 1but the government also granted deferrals to various companies and industries until 2014.

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