Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wages Council ineffective in ensuring fair and just pay for workers

It is widely reported that thousands of workers in the private sector can expect higher salaries soon after the Human Resources Ministry reviews the Wages Council Act 1947. It says that these include those in the security, hospitality, electronic and textile sectors.Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said the Wages Council had been reactivated to review salaries in several sectors. “In the next few months, you will get announcements on a few areas where we have already done our work,” .

Subramaniam had said that previously, the salary in the security industry was as low as RM300 to RM400. Most of them will need to work on 12-hour shifts to get salaries of between RM700 and RM800.” Subramaniam said the ministry intervened to make the changes to enable those working in the sector to earn meaningful salaries.

While this is welcomed news for those workers who will benefit from the review, it cannot be denied that the Wages Council has not been effective in ensuring fair and just pay for the nation's workers.

The question which Subramaniam did not address is the fact that the previous review was conducted about a decade ago. Why has the BN government subjected those in the field of security industry as well as other sectors to unfair, unjust and unreasonable pay all this while?
Does not the government realise that even after having worked for 12 hours per day, those who get paid RM 800 per month are still finding it difficult to make ends meet?

What we need is a Minimum Wage Act which will ensure reasonable wage for the workers who have contributed tremendously to the nation's economic growth and development. I have raised on numerous occasions on the necessity for a Minimum Wage policy.

Employees need protection as they have very weak bargaining powere on wages. Thus it’s the duty of a government to enact a law on Minimum wages so that workers are not paid pittance by employers.

When asked about the government's rejection to impose minimum wage for the workers, former Human Resources Minister Dato Fong Chan On had said that it would impede foreign competition and discourage foreign investment in Malaysia. Present Human Resources Minister Dato Subramaniam ' excuse is a different one, giving slow economy as the reason.

If slow economy is the reason, Malaysians want to know why the government had not introduced the Minimum Wage Act when economy was good? Additionally, many countries like Japan and USA do have minimum wage but yet their economy is doing better than us. So the Minimum Wage Act is feasible, contrary to claims by the government.

As the government has defined the poverty line as RM 1200 a month per household in the Third Outline Perspective Plan 2001-2010, the government should introduce a Minimum Wage Act that imposes a minimum wage of RM 1000 and COLA of RM 200 per month for all employees in the country.

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