MTUC tells employers group to back claim that RM2,700 ‘living wage’ would kill businesses

Solomon argued that a RM2,700 living wage was necessary for workers to survive increased cost of living. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Solomon argued that a RM2,700 living wage was necessary for workers to survive increased cost of living. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 — The Malaysian Trades Union Congress challenged the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) today to substantiate an official’s claim that paying workers a “living wage” of RM2,700 monthly would cause businesses to collapse.

The workers group described the MEF’s assertion as inconceivable considering the country was over six decades’ old and undergone repeated spells of economic boom.

“The MEF yesterday issue another predictable statement, claiming many businesses will fold if the living wage in urban cities be set at RM2,700 per month as proposed by MTUC.

“MTUC challenges MEF to prove this absurd claim with facts and girders or admit that it is merely making another wild allegation to the detriment of lowly paid workers,” MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon said in a statement.

He was rebutting MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan’s response to the MTUC’s proposal to increase local salaries as a way to encourage Malaysians to take over work performed by foreign workers.

Besides the financial constraints, Shamsuddin claimed local workers’ attitudes were less than desirable, describing them as unpredictable and unreliable.

Solomon rejected Shamsuddin’s claims, saying it was an attempt to malign local workers to provide justification to keep using foreign labourers whom he said were paid “deplorable salaries”.

He further argued that a RM2,700 living wage was necessary for workers to survive increased cost of living, and likened any efforts to hamper this to an insincerity in employers’ professed desire to hire local workers over foreigners.

On a related matter, the MTUC secretary-general also lauded the government’s decision to reactivate the Social Protection Council Malaysia (MySPC) as part of efforts to revive the economy following measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

He suggested the government focus on ensuring local workers could secure a decent living in light of the impending recession.

“As such, if the government continues to be duped by feeble excuses meted out by unscrupulous employers to deny workers fair wages, Putrajaya must then introduce effective social policies to help this group of workers.

“The Social Protection Council must draw up the necessary mechanism to provide a monthly ‘top up’ subsistence as a social security net to enable workers in urban areas to take home a pay packet of RM2,700,” he said.

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