Human Resources Minister M Saravanan’s announcement that selected sectors – such as tourism, the informal sectors and those who have suffered losses due to the impact of Covid – would be exempted from the implementation of the proposed RM1,500 minimum wage is misplaced.
Firstly, the underlying objective of a national minimum wage is premised upon the principle that all wage earners, irrespective of the economic sectors that they are involved in, ought to be paid a decent minimum wage.
This is for the simple reason that any wage below the national minimum wage would only result in a mismatch of minimum wage levels between one economic sector and another.
Common sense dictates that our government cannot be cherry-picking on the fundamental issue of a national minimum wage.
In our view, a national minimum wage must be enforced holistically and not selectively.
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On this issue, the human resources minister and, by extension, the government seem to have been swayed by lobbying by the business community to extricate themselves from paying their workers the national minimum wage.
Obviously, we have inherited a government that seems to be beholden to the employers at the expense of the grossly underpaid working class.
Looking at the demographics, the most vulnerable are those entrapped in the lowest 40% and middle 40% segments. By exempting some of them from the benefits of the minimum wage of RM1,500, the government ought to stand accused of being inconsiderate to their financial plight. They, faced with the ever-escalating cost of living, will continue to suffer financial stress – no thanks to the baseless selective implementation of the RM1,500 minimum wage.
The Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress believes the government has a moral obligation to ensure that every working-class citizen is paid the national minimum wage, as all workers have the constitutional right to be treated equally.
We therefore demand that the human resources minister and the government uphold the constitutional right of all workers to be accorded the national minimum wage, without any exemption.
K Veeriah is the secretary of the Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress
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