Following protest, minister pledges wage floor review

Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran (centre) shakes hand with MTUC president Datuk Abdul Halim Masnor (left) and PSM member S. Arutchelvan outside the Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur October 17, 2018. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran (centre) shakes hand with MTUC president Datuk Abdul Halim Masnor (left) and PSM member S. Arutchelvan outside the Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur October 17, 2018. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — Human Resource Minister M. Kulasegaran pledged today to raise workers’ demand for a review of the RM1,050 minimum wage with the Cabinet.

During a discussion with umbrella group Bantah 1050 that protested the RM50 increase to the minimum wage in peninsular Malaysia, the Ipoh Barat MP expressed sympathy with their plight.

“I understand your predicament. I agree that under the Cabinet there will be a review,” he said.

“Please stay here and don’t run,” Kulasegaran said in jest before heading off to the Dewan Rakyat and pledging to return in 20 minutes.

Upon his return, he asserted to the protests’ leaders that the hike for peninsular Malaysia had to be minimal due to the current economic slowdown and the national debt incurred under the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.

“Among the promises we made was to subsidise employers 50 per cent of any minimum wage hike. However, we cannot subsidise them now because of the economic constraint. 

“At the same time, even with 5 per cent increase in Peninsula Malaysia and 14 per cent in Sabah and Sarawak, the employers still demanded a 50 per cent subsidy.

“However, there’s no increment on subsidies. We must also give time to employers to adjust and I promise you we will play the catch up game and make it to RM1,500 while we are in term,” Kulasegaran told the group.

The group consisted of Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general J Solomon, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general Sivarajan Arumugam and National Union of Bank Employees (Nube) vice president Chee Yeeh Ceeu among others.

Earlier, they led over a hundred protesters in a march from Padang Merbok to the Parliament compound where they were halted by the police around 50 metres away from the premise’s gates.

At a press conference later, Solomon said many B40 workers are surviving on debt. He also pointed out that, in 2012, the Selangor state government introduced a minimum wage of RM1,500 to all staff at state-linked firms.

“The (Selangor) government did not go bankrupt with that minimum wage - how can the federal government go bankrupt because workers in the private sectors are receiving adequate wages?” he asked.

At a separate press conference later, Kulasegaran acknowledged receipt of the memorandum and reiterated his promise to bring the matter up to the Cabinet as soon as possible.

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