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Industrial Court endorses colonial wage structure

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At a time when the Human Resource Minister talks about workers earning poverty wages of less than RM720 a month, S Arutchelvan expresses dismay over an Industrial Court award that glorifies the plantation employers’ proposal of what it calls a ‘safety net’ of RM450.

Photo courtesy of interlocals.net

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) is appalled by Industrial Court award number 1414 of 2010 on the issues surrounding the collective agreement on harvesters and palm oil employees.

The award made by court Chairperson Puan Ong Geok Lan totally ignores the reality of the plantation community whereby the Industrial court just adopts the colonial wage structure put forward by the Planters Association.

In concluding the award, the Court says they have taken into account public interest, the financial implications and the effect of the award on the economy of the country. The award also commended the plantation Industry for having in place for over 30 years a truly productivity linked wage system where employees are given opportunity to maximise their earnings and where performers are duly rewarded.

PSM questions whose public interest does the award talks about? The interest of the plantation capital or the interest of the plantation workers? It is no secret that the plantation sector breeds poverty and the plantation community has been recognised by the Government as a poverty group since the NEP was started. The plantation companies are one of the worst pay masters in spite of making huge profits from the blood and sweat of the workers.

The outcome of this award rejects the call for a monthly rated system, denies the facts that employers are suppressing wages by employing foreign workers, dismisses union’s claims for annual increments, opposes annual bonuses, denies union’s claims for transport subsidies, retains existing shift allowances against the interest of the union, retains the oppresive system of yield brackets, retains the length of carry, retains existing provisions on tall palms and abuses the term ‘safety net’.

READ MORE:  Analysis of poverty in Malaysia

While the Human Resource Minister talks about workers earning less than RM720 as a yardstick of earning below the poverty-line, this award glorifies MAPA’s proposal in what it calls as a ‘safety net’ of RM450 per month.

Worse, the award puts the commencement of this award from 1 November 2010, which means the workers are forced to live with this terrible award for another three years. The reason given by the court is that it would give sufficient time to feel the full effect of this award.

The Industrial Court, which should have acted as an arbitration body in resolving the wage dispute between the planters and the workers, seems to have taken the side of the bosses and further punished plantation workers. This award merely endorses the oppressive colonial wage structure which MAPA has fine-tuned over the years.

It seems that all the talk about making Malaysia a high-income economy is just sheer talk. In reality, the award goes back to colonial times and is yet another cut on the flesh of the already famished plantation worker.

S Arutchelvan is Secretary General of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM)

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