Coffeeshop operators on higher wages: ‘Hear us out’

Business owners are hoping that another MCO does not take place.

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Dec 24: The voice of coffeeshop operators should not be dismissed with a shrug nor should the welfare of the coffeeshop employees be compromised as the new minimum monthly wage rates take effect next year.

Highlighting this, Coffeeshop and Restaurant Owners Association chairman Tong Ing Kok believed that both sides should not make hasty statements but come together to think of the best way to solve the issues and challenges faced by coffeeshop operators in view of the increase in minimum wage.

“Prices of goods are going up. Inflation is bad. Businesses are slowing down but our operating expenses are increasing. Yes, we are facing a lot of problems.

“However, I think coffeeshop owners should not call on the whole community to make the decision that we will not pay for our employees’ accommodation and food.

“Individual coffeeshop operators should make their own decision based on the viability of their businesses,” Tong, who is also a coffeeshop operator, told DayakDaily today.

On the other hand, he also emphasised that Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak secretary Andrew Lo should not have made ‘spur-of-the moment’ statement like telling off coffeeshop operators to just close shop if they find it hard to pay minimum wage as well as provide accommodate and food for their employees.

“Lo, as a union representative and a well-educated individual should speak with more diplomacy and not making such abrupt statement. He is supposedly the mediator to help employers and employees come to a compromise,” he said.

Tong hoped there will be discussion where employers’ side of story be heard and not have the law forcing down on them without even considering the challenges they were facing.

During a meeting in Kuala Lumpur recently, he learnt that within three months, about 2,000 coffeeshops in the capital city closed down due to economic downturn.

“Get to know our difficulties and see if there is any way to help us so that there will be a win-win situation,” he urged.

Tong said that there were about 5,000 coffeeshops across Sarawak and if all of them were to close down, it would mean at least 20,000 people losing their jobs.

Furthermore, if all coffeeshops were to close down, the customers depending on them for cheaper food and drinks daily will suffer.

“If businesses continue to close down, it will also reflect badly on our government. The government’s image will be tarnished. So let us not let the issue gets the better of us, but let us sit together to see how best to deal with the issue,” he stressed.

Tong made it very clear that the law is the law and all coffeeshop operators are left with no choice but to abide to it.

“We are hoping that the government would take into consideration rural and urban wealth and population disparity. In big cities, the population can easily be as many as 700,000 to a million but in small town like Sibu, the population is only about 200,000.

“In Kuala Lumpur, RM1,200 is really not much but it is considered quite a substantial amount for those in small towns. I believe these are all the factors that the government needs to take into consideration when enforcing the law,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Human Resources had on Dec 18 announced that the minimum wage in 57 cities and towns will be raised to RM1,200 monthly from Jan 1, 2020.

The statement said it would benefit workers in 57 locations, including all 13 state capitals and three federal territories.

However, it added that the minimum wage for non-urban areas, small towns and rural areas would remain at the present rate of RM1,100.

“The decision for the new minimum wage in cities was decided by the Cabinet on Dec 6, after the tabling of the 2020 Budget.

“The higher cost of living and expenses in cities as compared to small towns and rural areas led to the decision made by the Cabinet.

“The new minimum wage decision was done for those working in major cities, and it is expected to be gazetted very soon.”— DayakDaily