Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why MEF and the Government are reluctant to introduce minimum wage for workers?

The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF)’s stubborn stand in rejecting the call for minimum wage is most shocking.

MEF argued that a minimum wage policy will hurt local businesses and workers as it tends to benefit low-skilled and low-income foreign resulting in more money being remitted out of the country.

Its Executive director Shamsuddin Bardan has also said the way to push for higher income levels was not by basing it on a minimum wage but by increasing employee productivity and performance.

These two arguments are however flawed and unacceptable.
We now have over 2 million foreign workers. Many of the jobs taken up by them are what are called the three D’s (Dirty, Dangerous and Demeaning).

These jobs are very lowly remunerated. Unless a decent salary is paid, locals will not be attracted to work in this 3 D’s sector.

Despite the fact that our nation has gained independence for 53 years, thousands of our citizenry are still earning below the hard core income level and is this to be condoned? Should we allow them to continue to be suffering without a decent wage to live on?

The bargaining powers of a worker vis a vis an employer is just too loop sided. The employer is all mighty who can dictate terms favorable to him. Who can protect the workers’ rights if there is no law to govern this area?

The argument for minimum wage comes with the right to basic needs which includes housing, a five-day work week, and 90 days' maternity allowance, housing allowances, free medical care and education. The ultimate should be the introduction of weekly wages for all workers.

There have been so many calls in the past that the government ought to introduce minimum wage but the government has not responded positively.

Some years ago under Mahathir administration, minimum wage was considered a dirty word as then Prime Minister backed employers who preferred wages to be tied up with the so called “productivity” formula of a worker.

Then about two years ago the government has in a reply in Parliament said that minimum wage policy was untenable as the economy was slowing down.

Last year the stand by the government has moved to “we will not be a competitive economy if we have minimum wage policy”.

This fondness to give excuses simply shows the government’s lack of commitment to a minimum wage policy.

MEF should realize that the need for minimum wage policy is all the more necessary as the country transforms from a developing country into a developed country. Our unemployment rate is 3.8%.Thus in economics terms we are classified as a country with full employment. If this is so, why is minimum wage is being shot down?

DAP calls the MEF and the Government not to deny the fruits of development of the country by the workers. The success of our economy would not have been achieved without the sweat, sacrifice and contribution of the workers. Workers contributions need to recognized and remunerated accordingly and the introduction of minimum wage should not be delayed any longer

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