The Minimum Wages
The much delayed minimum wages was finally announced by the PM, while the main stream media is still hotly debating the consequences of Bersih 3.0. The minimum wage for workers in Peninsular Malaysia has been set at RM900 a month while for Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan it is set at RM800 per month. The minimum wage would cover workers in all sectors of the economy, except for the domestic help services or maids, gardeners and similar employment categories. The minimum wage will take effect six months from the date the minimum wage order is gazetted. This seems to be a half-hearted plan that may not take off. The Selangor state government has implemented a minimum wage of RM1500 for state and state GLC employees, while the Penang state government has meanwhile set the minimum wage at RM1100.
The announcement comes after another sweetener was announced for workers before the 13th general election. It’s an election goody, and a knee jerk reaction, in response to the workers protest on 3rd November 2011 against the amendment to employment act 1955. The PM wants to win over the workers to support BN before the coming general elections. The debate on the acceptable level of minimum wages will go on for some time to come.
Our PM announced the 10th Malaysia plan in 2009, for Malaysia to become a high income nation by 2020. It took another 3 years to announce a minimum wages plan. A minimum wage of RM900 will only attract more foreign workers. Malaysian workers cannot survive on such a wages. Foreign workers will displace the unskilled Malaysian workers in low paying jobs keeping Malaysian workers earning wages, below the poverty level. Wages alone are no longer a major determinant of competitiveness but in Malaysia it is deliberately kept low through large and unfettered recruitment of foreign workers by employers and crony agents through very exploitative production system. Foreign workers already form 40% of work force.
Workers rights have been eroded over the years under the BN regime. Labour laws have been amended to allow sub contractors to employ workers for hire in factories and officers. Forming in-house unions has become impossible. Existing unions are weakened systematically and thus lowering job security. The close relationship between government and employers has bred corruption, kick backs, and big lucrative deals for the UMNO goons. The civil service policy makers and implementers are clueless on how to stimulate and reinvigorate the stagnating productivity and efficiency of the public sector. This is stifling the private sector growth and expansion. Institutionalized racism and corruption have hampered and blunted the drive for increased productivity and efficiency. Workers can be made more productive and efficient with more equality and meritocracy, within the system.
Millions of skilled and highly educated Malaysians have gone overseas seeking job opportunities. Our loss, has been other countries’ gain. UMNO/BN must dismantle the racial quotas and discrimination to increase efficiency and productivity. Structural transformation is compulsory and a prelude for socio-economic and political changes. If, the slogan ‘Malaysia is truly Asia’ is to hold true, then the driving spirit of Nation building, should not just be a Ministry of Tourism’s slogan.
Senator S. Ramakrishnan