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PM’s view on low wages disappointing

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The Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) demands that the existing Minimum Wage Act be replaced with a living wage act.

The prime minister’s view that low wages are better than none, sadly, is a representation of the mindset of the ultra-capitalist class.

What is shocking is the fact that it was parroted by the prime minister of the “Malaysia Baru” government. Coming on the day that celebrated the sacrifices and contributions of the working people of the world, it is, in our opinion, disgusting.

Let us remind the prime minister and, by extension, the Pakatan Harapan government, that this nation of ours was built on the blood, sweat and lives lost of the working class.

From the early rubber plantation workers, the tin ore mining labourers, to those who built the railways, the harbours and everything and anything that now stands to glorify this nation, it was the product of labour’s sacrifices.

But the sad fact remains that the workers of the nation are the most marginalised segment of the country.

The plantation workers, the fishermen, the farmers and those toiling in the manufacturing sector are all entrapped in the vicious low-income equation of the nation – no thanks to the low-wage policy of the regime that governed our country from independence to May 2018.

And lest it slips our memory, a good 22 years of that was under the leadership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whom I will refer to as Mahathir 1.0.

Obviously, he has not shed his pro-capital inclination. Permit me to label him now Mahathir 2.0. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to decipher his call of “low wage better than none” as a manifestation of the Pakatan Harapan’s government’s policy towards the workers of the nation. If that is not the case, where are the voices of the other equal partners of the Pakatan Harapan coaliation?

A promise to implement a minimum wage of RM1,500 was set aside. The promise that the abolition of the GST would bring down the cost of living has not materialised. The escalating cost of essential goods and services is a reality that only fools will dare to deny.

These realities have been supported by findings from none other than Bank Negara in that the current minimum wage is not appropriate. In fact Bank Negara believes the country ought to implement a “living wage”- a wage that would be adequate to meet the workers’ basic needs with a bit to spare.

Having regard to the Bank Negara’s finding, Penang MTUC demands that the existing Minimum Wage Act be replaced with a living wage act that would have the jurisdiction to enact a national living wage without government interference in the matter.

Penang MTUC is also in complete agreement with the MTUC secretary general J Solomon’s response to this matter.

K Veeriah is secretary of the Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress.

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