Low wages the real problem, not type of jobs, MTUC says amid warnings of further redundancies among Malaysians

In July, Malaysia’s PLI was revised from a monthly household income of RM980 to RM2,208 as it had not undergone a review since 2005. — AFP pic
In July, Malaysia’s PLI was revised from a monthly household income of RM980 to RM2,208 as it had not undergone a review since 2005. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, August 11 — The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) warned today that the unemployment rate among Malaysians will soar further and employers may start hiring more foreigners if the government continues to turn a blind eye to the current wage rate in the country.

MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon also singled out Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan for reciting the mantra of “any job is better than no job” at a time when the unemployment rate has increased amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“He has been reciting this mantra as if this is the only thing the government can do to help the unemployed.

“MTUC has time and again reminded the government and the employers that it is not the type of jobs that is deterring Malaysians from taking up these jobs but it is the low salaries that do not commensurate with the type of jobs they perform,” he said in a statement here.

Solomon was referring to Saravanan’s remark yesterday that Malaysians should “accept any job, even if there is a salary cut” in advising job seekers not to be too choosy and to seize the employment opportunities that are available.

“Saravanan must realise that the minimum wage fixed by the governments over the last few years were based on grossly outdated Poverty Line Index (PLI) of RM980 per household for more than 10 years.

“Workers had been suffering with this wrong PLI for many years which has further increased the income inequality,” he said.

In July, Malaysia’s PLI was revised from a monthly household income of RM980 to RM2,208 as it had not undergone a review since 2005.

With this revision, Solomon said the government owed it to impoverished workers to revise the minimum wage urgently to make up for decades of apparent abuse by paying unfair and low salaries.

He pointed out how employers, aided by government policies, have managed to keep the wages for these jobs low so they could reap high profits at the expense of poorly paid workers, mainly migrant labourers.

“The employers have taken advantage of the poor foreign workers who are at the mercy of Malaysian bosses for survival,” he said.

Solomon then continued questioning Saravanan, asking why the latter was always targeting the low-income category of workers while not addressing the highly-paid top management and politicians in the country.

“Why is he not proposing that during this crisis the government should set a ceiling instead of allowing interested parties to decide their own salary and bonuses.

“The minister is unable to give an assurance to stop the irresponsible corporations to comply with the existing labour laws. With this, we do not see how can he give a guarantee the economy will recover soon when there is a lot of uncertainty,” he said.

Solomon then counter-suggested for MPs to reduce their allowance and put a halt to the pensions they are entitled to for every term.

“Why should they be paid more than one pension for every term of five years as MP or state assemblymen?

“What about all the MPs who have been appointed as GLC heads recently? They are getting all the MPs allowances in addition to the GLC emoluments which can add up to more than RM40,000 a month,” he said, adding that those in power should not be arrogant and bully disadvantaged workers who live from hand-to-mouth with no adequate safety net in times of crisis.

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