KOTA KINABALU May 12, 2012: Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) welcomes the recent announcement of a minimum wage, especially since it has been battling for it for the past 15 years in the country, but wished it was more.
The announcement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on the minimum wage late last month is indeed viewed as a victory for Malaysian workers.
“This is the first time ever that Malaysia has a national minimum wage covering all industries in the private sector,” said MTUC Sabah secretary Catherine Jikunan in a statement yesterday.
The minimum wage set for Peninsular Malaysia is RM900 and RM800 for East Malaysia and Labuan.
Jikunan, who is also the representative of MTUC Sabah in the National Wage Consultative Council said their stand is the minimum wage should be RM1,200 and it has been their priority ever since.
“We affirm that the cost of living in Sabah is much higher compared to Peninsular Malaysia. The poverty line index (PLI) for Sabah is RM1,048, which is the highest among the other states in Malaysia,” she said.
Jikunan, who said MTUC Sabah objected to the lower minimum wage given to the state, reaffirmed her stand during the meetings and demanded a higher minimum wage of RM1,200 as what had been demanded by MTUC and agreed by other MTUC representatives.
“Of course the Employer Organisation (MEF) strongly objected to this demand and if I may quote their executive director Samsudin’s statement who said: ‘If I were to be born again, I will never agree to a minimum wage’.
“The obstacle and challenges to get the minimum wage agreed by all parties is not an easy task. MTUC Sabah will continue its struggle to get a higher minimum wage so as to able to address the cost of living in Sabah,” she said.
She said the Minimum Wage Act provides for a review once in two years, and MTUC Sabah will never stop its demand for higher minimum wage.
On the Federation of Sabah Manufacturers (FSM) president Datuk Seri Panglima Wong Ken Thau’s statement that Sabah employers were not represented in the tripartite National Wage Consultative Council, she said there was no truth to it.
Employers in Sabah were represented by Sabah Employer Consultative Association (SECA) which is affiliated to Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), one of the biggest employer associations in Malaysia.
MTUC also affirmed that the technical committee appointed by the government conducted numerous meetings and discussions with all stakeholders to get their views and feedback on the minimum wage.
Jikunan also confirmed that MTUC Sabah was in the meetings when the technical committee conducted their nationwide meeting with all stakeholders, such as in Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan, and noted that employers were present in the meetings.
MTUC Sabah is also aware that SECA and MEF had met and discussed with FSM on matters related to minimum wage.
“With such meetings, we do not believe that employers in Sabah are in the dark on this matter.
“MTUC Sabah does not want to see more delays on the implementation of this newly announced minimum wage as workers have been waiting for a fair and equitable wage for so long.
“The cost of living in Sabah is increasing every year, but wages of workers in Sabah hardly ever increase.
“Sabahan wages remain low ever since we gained our independence, and now in this 21st century, employers are still delaying the implementation of the minimum wage,” said Jikunan.
She described as ridiculous and irresponsible of employers to propose a 15 per cent increment per year and to implement it within three years.
MTUC Sabah is of the opinion that by the time it was implemented in three years, the cost of living in Sabah would have increased threefold and this would bring all the lower income workers to square one.
Therefore, she said MTUC Sabah wanted all employers, especially from FSM, to commit to their statement of “FSM are not objecting to the minimum payment” and “Sabahans should get more because of their cost of living”, to adhere with the order of the minimum wage and pay their workers accordingly without any delay.
The grace period for implementation of the newly announced minimum wage will be six months for normal industries and 12 months for micro enterprises after it is gazetted.
All industries are covered except for domestic servants, and certain categories of workers are allowed to be paid a minimum wage at a reduced rate such as elderly persons to be paid at more than 30 per cent, persons with disabilities at between zero and 60 per cent (depending on their disabilities) and probationers at more than 30 per cent.
Workers in Sabah with inquires or face problems in getting their minimum wage should contact MTUC Sabah at 088-213830/215830, or cell phone at: 013-8503039, or 088-260860 (fax).