Labour Day event organiser wants RM1,800 wage floor, end to contract hiring

People hold aloft placards and banners as they march from the Maju Junction Mall to Dataran Merdeka during a rally held in conjunction with Labour Day in Kuala Lumpur May 1, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
People hold aloft placards and banners as they march from the Maju Junction Mall to Dataran Merdeka during a rally held in conjunction with Labour Day in Kuala Lumpur May 1, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 — An organiser of a Labour Day gathering here urged Putrajaya to increase the minimum wage to RM1,800 and abolish all contract-based employment now.

“We want the people’s elected government to abolish contract-based employment and increase minimum wage to RM1,800 with immediate effect,” said Sarasvathy Muthu, the deputy chairman for Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) and one of the chief organisers of the gathering.

Sarasvathy asserted that contract-based hiring has loopholes that allowed worker exploitation as the group was not afforded the same legal protections as regular employees.

The group also did not enjoy regular pay increments or promotions regardless of service length, and were often stuck at entry-level pay.

“Whether you have been there for 20 years it won’t matter. They go back to step one where their salary is RM1,100.

“It’s daylight robbery,” Sarasvathy said when repeating the call for an immediate end to contract hiring.

Others at the rally complained that salaries have effectively stagnated for decades.

Sarimah Mohd Nor, a nurse at Taiping Hospital, said low salaries have made it difficult to attract new blood.

“It’s such mental torture knowing you have 20 years experience under your belt but your salaries the same as a fresh graduate,” Sarimah told Malay Mail.

“We should be considered as permanent staff and also include a bonus clause preferably to be given during Raya festivities. If we don’t do this I see the industry struggling.”

Kindergarten school cleaner S. Kogilavani said she and many of her peers were struggling to survive on their minimum wage salaries,  adding that some governments policies failed to provide additional relief for the lowest income earners.

“The lowest rent for a low cost flat nowadays is RM650 for a two-room unit. Then we have to buy food, pay the amenities and send the kids to school.

“If our salaries are at RM1,100 how much is left after all the expenditures especially when the cost of living continues to rise?” she said.

Tan Cheng Siong, 22, complained that internship allowances are too low while institutes of higher learning keep increasing their fees, adding that fresh graduate pay in Malaysia was a shadow of what it should be given the country’s GDP.

Several hundred people gathered for the annual Labour Day gathering earlier today, which was themed “Increase wages, decrease discrimination” this year.

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