Sunday, October 25, 2015

MALAYSIA:::MTUC: Budget’s minimum wage too little for now

In 2012, the Malaysian Trades’ Union Congress (MTUC) urged the government to fix the minimum wage ceiling rate at RM1,200 a month for private sector employees.

Three years later, the Budget 2016 has only revealed a meagre increase, not taking into account the fact that the cost of living has increased. 

The Budget 2016 that was tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Friday had a 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 MTUC had been asking the government to fix minimum wage at RM1,200 long before the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was implemented and before the cost of living rose to its current state today.

“Now three years later, petrol prices have increased and with the recent toll price hike, even RM1,200 should not be the number anymore since it was the figure that we proposed in 2013,” says MTUC secretary-general, N. Gopal Kishnam.

He says under the Minimum Wages Order 2012, a minimum wage for workers in Malaysia only took place in January 2013 at RM900 a month for those in the peninsula and RM800 for those in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Under the Order, the minimum wage must be reviewed once in two years and employers who breached the directive could be fined up to RM10,0000 for each employee.

“But they didn’t do the review and now they are announcing the new wages increment today that will take place in 2016. We at MTUC are very disappointed in this decision. How do they expect the lower-income group to survive in this current economic situation?” says Gopal.

He also says the PM should have advised the private sectors to consider giving Cost of Living Allowance (Cola) to private sector workers.

“We think that this is necessary for private sector workers who are also affected by the GST and the rising cost of living. A Cola should be implemented in the private sector, as practised in the civil service, just like what the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein did back then,” he adds.

Gopal also expresses concerns over the budget’s exclusion of an effective mechanism to retain female workforce in the country.

“At the moment, statistics show that 65% of university enrolments are female but only 45% are in employment. This is because most women, who settle down along the way and get their first child, choose to stop work.

“One of the reasons why they need to stop work is due to the lack of day-care centres made available for them to continue working. This is also a result of why certain companies have only 30% of female employees who are in decision making roles,” says Gopal.

Apart from these concerns, Gopal points out that the government did not address to the country’s migrant workers problems.

“There was no concrete plans mentioned in the budget on the reducing the dependency on migrant workers. At the moment they cannot even identify the problems with undocumented migrant workers and the country needs a solution to this,” Gopal adds.

By Soo Wern Jun

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