KOTA KINABALU May 3, 2012: The lower minimum wage of RM800 per month or RM3.85 per hour mandated by the government for private sector workers in Sabah has been described as unfair by many Sabahans.
Kelly Tong, 29, a private company employee in Penampang, said the RM800 minimum wage as announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Monday, which is RM100 lower than the RM900 for workers in the Peninsular is “not fair at all”.
“It is a huge difference and I must say it is not fair at all. We are paying more compared to people in the Peninsular because our cost of living is higher.
“Goods in Sabah are expensive compared to those in Kuala Lumpur or other states in the Peninsular. I know that because my husband is from there,” she said.
“I have thought the 1Malaysia slogan is proof that the current government is treating us all equally.
“I hope next time Najib comes to Sabah he must really look into our cost of living, and I hope he will give us Sabahans what we deserve,” she said.
Sarinah Kamin, a clerk with a government-link company, opined that the previous low pay in Sabah does not mean that the government could fix a lower minimum wage for Sabahans.
She said Sabahans and Sarawakians are the ones who should be given RM900 in minimum wage while those in the Peninsular who are paying less for goods should be given RM800.
“With the minimum wage set by the government, I am afraid many private companies which have been only paying their workers a paltry RM400 a month will reduce the salaries of higher paid workers to meet the minimum wage obligation,” she said.
“There are many companies in Sabah, such as plantation and manufacturing companies, paying their workers RM10 per day even though thay have been working for more than 20 years,” she claimed.
“The announcement is very good but the difference in minimum wage is clearly sending a wrong message to Sabahans,” said Sarinah.
Hilboy Jumin, a general worker in a plantation company, said Sabah is the state which has the highest number of Umno members in Malaysia, and this should have been taken into account by the Prime Minister who is also the president of Umno.
Hilboy, who is an Umno member, said he never expected Sabah workers to be given lower minimum wage than those in the Peninsular, adding that it seems the Peninsular people are always given the best.
“A simple example is 1Malaysia shops were launched in the Peninsular first, and after that we have a few in Sabah and Sarawak.
“However, the 1Malaysia shops never help to reduce prices of the other shops because they are selling more products with good quality.
“Moreover, our prices are higher than in the Peninsular,” he lamented.
“I don’t see the logic in giving the Peninsular more when the people there do not give their support to Najib as much as Sabah people,” he said.
“Are we going to be forever a fixed deposit without profit? he asked.
Hilboy said Najib should be more serious in giving the people of Sabah benefits.
Victor Lo, an assistant manager, said while he welcomes the government’s decision to finally set a minimum wage for the long suffering private sector employees as a positive first step, he views the RM100 difference in the minimum wages for workers in Sabah as grossly unfair.
He said that regardless of the reasons, the “strange” decision would just make the people in Sabah feel that they are less importance in the eyes of the government.
He said this just does not make sense, considering that the cost of living in Sabah is actually far higher than that in the Peninsular states.
Angkatan Amanah Merdeka Malaysia Sabah deputy chairman Datuk Monggoh Orow said the minimum wage for workers in Sabah should be set at RM1,035 instead of RM800.
The wage should be 15 percent more than the minimum wage set for workers in Peninsular Malaysia, he said.
“The suggestion is based on the high cost of living in Sabah,” he said.
The people in Sabah have to pay more for food, clothes, petrol and building materials as these are imported from overseas, including Peninsular Malaysia, he said.
Monggoh blamed the cabotage policy as among the reasons for the higher cost of goods in Sabah.
“Goods such as sugar, flour, cooking oil, steel, manure, vehicles and kerosene are more expensive in Sabah,” he said.
Goods that are not listed under the ‘control items’ list are also more expensive, he said.
Even the prices of control items such as petrol, sugar and rice are higher in Sabah, he said.
Monggoh criticized the government for providing extra allowances for teachers from Peninsular Malaysia who were serving in Sabah while providing no such allowances for Sabahans who are working in the state.
“The excuse given for the extra allowances for Peninsular Malaysian teachers working in Sabah is that they have to endure the high cost of living in the state.
“The government’s decision to withdraw the kerosene, petrol and diesel subsidies have also resulted in the increase in the cost of public tranportation, building materials, clothing and food,” he said.
Security guard Sulaiman Jaafar, 36, said the minimum wage for private sector employees in the state should be similar to that in Peninsular Malaysia to avoid any dissatisfaction among private sector employees in Sabah.
He said the government has increased the minimum wage of private sector employees in Sabah but there is still a difference of RM100 between the wage here and that in Peninsular.
“The prices of goods here are more expensive than in the Peninsular but the government still gives priority to employees there.
“It is quite unfair to treat the people in Sabah and Sarawak like they do not contribute to the development of the country.
“Why does the government set two different wages for the private sector workers?” he asked.
Sales promoter Salbiah Salleh, 30, said if the minimum wage is also applied to those who work in shopping complexes, then it is really helpful.
She said most of the salesgirls in the state are getting only between RM350-RM500 a month.
Therefore, with the minimum wage, salaries of workers can be the same as other private sector employees, she said.
by Mariah Doksil, Jenne Lajiun and Suraidah Roslan