KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 — Some 300 people dressed in red shirts or bandanas gathered in the federal capital here demanding a higher minimum wage of RM1,500 for workers, in conjunction with Labour Day today.
The rally, jointly organised by some 70 groups, including Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), initially saw a gathering of 100 people outside the Maju Junction Mall on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.
But it later swelled to 300 people after the demonstrators started to march peacefully under the watchful eyes of policemen on duty, to Dataran Merdeka before proceeding to Medan Pasar — now a regular weekend meeting spot for new migrant workers from Nepal and Bangladesh.
The participants included families with young children, some just toddlers, carried colourful handmade posters decrying their wages below RM1,000 in Bahasa Malaysia, which they asserted was unable to sustain their household.
A number of other posters called for women’s pay to be raised to the same level as men’s wages.
Others held up banners spelling out their rally theme: “Prioritise Workers, Save Malaysia”.
Several prominent public figures spotted in the crowd were PSM central committee member S. Arutchelvan and Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar.
Along the way, various other activists joined in, including undergraduates who sought free tertiary education and called on Putrajaya to abolish the National Higher Education Fund Cooperation (PTPTN) offering loans to students that must be repaid upon completion of their studies.
At the rally’s termination point in Medan Pasar, several activists delivered speeches.
The organisers also read out a list of 17 demands, including raising the minimum wage from the current RM1,000 in the peninsula and RM920 in Sabah and Sarawak to RM1,500; setting up a Workers Retrenchment Fund; and abolishing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which they claimed to be a burden on workers.
Dr Jeyakumar said PSM, as one of the main organisers, was happy with today’s turnout as it reflected support for workers’ rights.
“Despite our GDP increasing so much, it has not been reflected in the lifestyles of our community. We want a fair distribution of wealth for all the people.
“We want to put aside race and religion and fight for all the poor. A higher minimum wage is necessary now for workers,” he told reporters.
The group that started their march at 10.30am from Maju Junction dispersed without incident at 12.30pm at Medan Pasar.