Don’t sabotage yourselves over minimum wage, MTUC Sarawak tell employers

Andrew Lo

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KUCHING, Dec 24: Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak secretary Andrew Lo is telling employers not to “cut off their noses to spite their faces” over the increase in the minimum wage.

According to Lo in a statement today, the business figures should stop the ‘tired and boring’ fearmongering which they spouted before when the minimum wage was introduced and each time when the minimum wage is increased.

“They even made the now debunked claim that 300,000 businesses will go bankrupt if minimum wage is implemented,” Lo highlighted.

To him, employers should be much smarter and be proactive and visionary rather than resorting to fearmongering tactics .

He said minimum wage increases does not lead to higher outward remittances and low exchange rates.

“It is employers’ addiction to foreign workers whom they can control, manipulate and exploit,” said Lo.

Lo opined that it was laughable for employer groups to talk about illegal foreign workers when Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has admitted that employers are blatantly breaking the law employing illegals.

“Don’t cut (off) your nose to spite your face,” Lo asserted when responding to MEF’s statement claiming that the rise in the minimum wage would result in an estimated RM2.5 billion additional remittances out of the country by foreign workers annually.

In a statement today, MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan claimed that currently, foreign workers are repatriating about RM34 billion annually, not taking into account remittances by illegal foreign workers.

Lo believed that the minimum wage increases of RM100 in major cities translate to only an additional 48 sen an hour.

“If they (businessmen) cannot afford 48 sen (an hour), they have no business to be in business. The new minimum wage of just RM5.76 (per hour) cannot even buy a proper lunch in Kuala Lumpur or Bintulu or Sandakan.”

Citing Australia as an example, Lo claimed that in Perth, the minimum wage is $AUD 22 an hour and lunch there costs $AUD11.

“This means that working half-an-hour is enough to put food into their mouth. In Malaysia workers have to work two-and-a-half hours just to buy a proper meal. That means minimum wage is five times lower.”

MTUC Sarawak believes that a higher minimum wage will facilitate a high-income-high-productivity workforce where employers will have to invest in innovation and smarter human resources management and manpower planning instead of relying on low-skill foreign workers.

To Lo, a smarter, trained workforce will increase the local business community’s competitiveness in a global economy.

“It is hypocritical for MEF to now to criticise the government’s decision to raise the minimum wage only for major urban areas as it is the employers’ group which has been fighting for sectoral and geographical minimum wage.

“We believe that a minimum wage of RM1,200 is too low and should be at least RM1,500 with effect immediately nationwide,” said Lo. — DayakDaily