Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Rocketing Cost Of Living And Unstainable Wages - Need For Government Intervention

Never in history has the employers' class subscribed to the ideals of an equitable wage system. Motivated by a desire to amass wealth, otherwise justified as return on investment, uncaring employers have always sought to suppress wages. 

When countries, such as Singapore and South Korea embarked on attaining a high wage income society in the 1980's, our political leadership took the approach of suppressing wages by flooding the labour market with an infusion of migrant workers.

With very low unionisation of workers, no thanks to the pro-capital labour legislation in force since independence, millions of workers have been deprived of the numerical strength to progress wage enhancement through the collective bargaining process. Pivoting on both the lack of trade union membership density and the restrictive labour laws denying workers even their fundamental right to strike, the working population have been, systematicly, denied a decent wage though a Bank Negara Malaysia study has identified that our nation ought to embrace a "living wage" module of wage determination as opposed to the "minimum wage"  concept so preferred by our political leadership.

Inspite of a surge, in the prices of essential goods, employers organisations such as the MEF, FMM and the SME, are opposed to an increase in the minimum wage premised upon the age old argument that businesses cannot survive with a minimum wage of RM1500.00.

Though mindful of the back-lash, I am of the view that the theory of the survival of the fittest ought to prevail. If an employer cannot pay a decent "living wage" or for the matter a minimum wage of RM1500.00 they should not enslave workers with exploitative wages. To be blunt, employers who have no capacity to pay a decent wage, have no right to a claim of being pay masters!

To the misplaced arguments, by the employers for a cheap wage system, I say you do not deserve to remain in business unless you are committed to uplift wages to a "living wage" as propunded by the Bank Negara.

To argue, that a minimum wage of RM1500.00, would adversely affect the micro, small and medium enterprises, is akin to saying that our workers ought to continue to wallow in the depths of the vicious low and middle income trap just so that employers can continue to stay in business.

Under such circumstances it is my view that it would be appropriate for the intervention of the government to correct the wage inequality for the benefit and well-being of the people.

The government cannot posture itself as the saviour of the people until and unless it has the moral dignity to, immediately, implement a sustainable living wage for workers.

Opinion piece by:-

K. Veeriah

24, Jalan Goh Swee Huat 

Taman Bukit 

14000 Bukti Mertajam 

016 4184520


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