Different pay in urban, rural areas stumbling block to implementing minimum wage

Datuk Richard Wee

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KUCHING, Dec 19: The difference between wage levels in rural and urban areas will pose a challenge to minimum wage implementation, opines Sarawak Federation of Chinese Associations president Datuk Richard Wee.

“The way of differentiating cities, towns and areas with different minimum wages is very difficult for organisations to implement.

“For example, if the company’s headquarters is in the city whereas most of the workers are in the rural areas, how are they suppose to comply with the law?” Wee told Dayakdaily.

He believed that in general, the new policy will benefit foreign workers rather than local workers.

“I would have thought that the government’s intention to implement the minimum wage policy is primarily to benefit our workers in the country so that all of them would have a better living wage.

“However, it would seem that the major benefit recipients would be foreign workers as we are currently having a large population of them in the construction, plantation, food and beverage and many other services sectors.

“I hope the government can take all these into consideration and make the necessary review to be more focused in the details before the implementation of the minimum wage policy.”

In essence, Wee is supportive of increasing the minimum wage to RM1,200 but objects to the manner of its implementation.

“In principle it is a good policy to improve the welfare and income for all our workers. I am supportive of such a policy, initiative and the quantum.

“However, it is the manner of the implementation that needs to be reviewed and reconsidered,” Wee told Dayakdaily.

He expressed the view that the implementation of such an increase must be considered wholistically, with feedback from all stakeholders and the industries in the country.

“The impact is not only on the group of workers that earn below the minimum wage as stated. It will have a ripple effect on the entire structure of the salary scales of all the organisations.

“The last adjustment and increase was only done as recently as July 2017 and now another adjustment is to be made on January 1, 2019.

“It would have been good if the government announced a step-up policy to be implemented over a period of time rather than a knee-jerk decision so that the business community and industries can plan for their manpower requirements and their overhead expenses.”

The government has mandated that the new RM1,200 monthly minimum wage will be implemented on Jan 1, 2020 in the administered areas of 57 city councils.

The Ministry of Human Resources (MoHR) disclosed in a statement yesterday that the minimum wage would remain at RM1,100 a month in towns that are not considered as part of these councils’ jurisdictions. — DayakDaily