Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Its time we had a decent living wage! Enough of talk ...

When are our wages going up??
"For a country aiming to be a developed nation in 10 years’ time, it is alarming that 72% of workers earned less than RM1,500." Andrew Lo, The Star columnist who commented this in his column Union Yes on 22 May, 2011.

He further comments, "The World Bank has reported that wages in Malaysia increased by only 2.6% per annum." This is shocking!!

Charles Hector in his blog today commented, "Najib only says policy not minimum wage by end 2011 ..."

The Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said, on May Day that the National Wage Consultation Council bill will be tabled in the next Parliament session. What's happening now? Read Malay Mail

The government seems busy increasing costs of tolls, postage, electricity, removing subsidies such as diesel now fishermen find it hard to fish in deep waters. Consumers now face price hikes in food. Where is it going to end??

Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Jerit, PSM, Tenaganita, AWAM and other groups are part of Malaysians for a Decent Living Wage. The following is press statement that we would have liked to put out if Parliament was debating it in this session which it is not. We would like your opinion of a decent living wage and whether its time that the government implement it. Isn't it time?
We, Malaysians for a Decent Living Wage express our grave concern that today the  prices of essential goods and services including electricity and gas have risen in the country. More than one-third of our workers currently earn wages below the poverty line income set by the Federal Government and the ranks of the poor will soon increase. We therefore demand that the government immediately enforce a decent living wage and withdraw the price hikes.

A Decent Living Wage for all workers is a reflection of the commitment of the government of the day to bring about justice to workers who form a significant number in the citizenry of the country

Though the Human Resources Minister said that he will introduce a bill on the minimum wage, it is actually to set up a National Wage Advisory Council on the minimum wage. We call instead for A Decent Living Wage Act to be legislated.

One third living below poverty line
As process of essential goods and services escalate, it will become impossible for the 38.8% of the Malaysian workers who live below the poverty line, to live decent lives. Likewise, many other Malaysian workers who earn just above the poverty line income will soon join the ranks of the working poor. Thus, it’s urgent to immediately implement A Decent Living Wage. The Malaysian government needs to recognize that the withdrawal of subsidies before putting in place A Decent Living Wage will have devastating consequences. This will especially affect workers in the lower income brackets, including the middle-class and the new graduates.

In addition about 70% of the workers spend a major part of their wages to repay debts. New graduates also start off their working lives struggling to repay their student loans. Both blue collar and white collar workers do not earn A Decent Living Wage.

Privatization - has it helped us?
The Malaysian government has privatized almost all essential services from water, electricity to health care. Through these privatization processes, the costs of the services has escalated, leading to workers with low wages making it difficult to have quality of life. Added to the abdication of the state providing the essential services, the government has also failed in providing services like child care and good public transport systems. Thus, we see workers are almost forced to own at least a motorcycle, if not a car, leading to an increase in loans.

Government has no political will
We are disappointed the Malaysian government does not have the political will to ensure that workers can earn A Decent Living Wage despite the Prime Minister’s loud declarations of transforming the country into a high income economy. So far the actions by the government have been the commissioning of studies and research and now a proposal to set up an advisory council. Over the last 15 years none of these actions have translated into A Decent Living Wage. Malaysia is among a handful of countries in the world that do not have a minimum wage. Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia, our ASEAN partners all have a minimum wage.

A decent living wage is crucial and necessary in order to positively reduce poverty, to bridge the increasing widespread gap between the rich and the poor who remain mainly workers. It is through a basic decent wage structure that we will move to achieving equality and non discrimination.

Formation of council delays process
The process cannot be delayed through the formation of a council but that such a wage can be brought about simultaneously as the country yearns to reach high income level.
We further want to express our grave reservations about the Bill that the Human Resource Minister plans to introduce in the next sitting of Parliament. He has indicated that there will be a Consultative Council on the minimum wage. We call for this council to be independent, transparent and represent a cross sector of the labour market. The appointment criteria should be clearly spelt out and made available for public scrutiny before the appointment process is finalized.

We call on the Malaysian government who was elected by millions of Malaysian workers to pay heed to the interests of these workers. Legislate a decent living wage now!

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