Cost-cutting should not be at the expense of workers, whatever their nationality; and all workers should be paid the minimum wage without further delay, says Rani Rasiah.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s statement that the minimum wage should be restricted to Malaysians only and not extended to migrant workers is hugely disappointing.
His reasoning that extending the minimum wage to migrant workers would increase business costs as well as result in a net outflow of money is lame and totally unacceptable.
Employers are under no compulsion to hire migrant workers and if indeed they are too costly, then bosses should stop hiring them! Or if it is felt that SMEs can’t cope with a larger wage bill, then the government should subsidise the SMEs in some way instead of asking workers to make a sacrifice.
Workers’ rights are not exactly a priority with bosses, and thus workers look to the government to intercede on their behalf. Unfortunately, the federal government has shown itself to be complicit with employers in the exploitation of both Malaysian and migrant workers. It is truly regrettable that Lim Guan Eng doesn’t differ from the federal government in this matter.
Instead of addressing the demands of Malaysian workers for better wages and working conditions, the government has flooded the labour market with cheap migrant labour. This has severely curtailed the bargaining power of local labour, and created youth unemployment among unskilled, academically poor Malaysian youths, a situation that is a contributing factor to social problems.
Creating an income differential by denying migrant workers the minimum wage will not change this situation. In fact it will only encourage companies to employ foreign workers because it is cheaper. Lim Guan Eng’s remarks are thus shortsighted and harmful for Malaysian youths and workers as well.
The situation is no better for the more than 4 million migrant workers whose exploitation is sanctioned by government policies. It is officially known that workers’ passports are unlawfully held by bosses – a situation that places them in an extremely vulnerable position, and that has led to all kinds of abuses, including the crime of trafficking.
We are against the exploitation of workers. Cost-cutting should not be at the expense of workers, whatever their nationality. All workers should be paid the minimum wage without further delay.
Stop discriminating by skin colour and nationality!
Accord labour its due dignity!
Legislate policy in the interest of society!
Rani Rasiah is a central committee member of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM).