Thursday, 16 June 2011

Knowing about Kapar electronic workers

Electronic workers from Kapar, Selangor in a training session in October, 2010. On the left corner is Stella Pereira our Coordinator.
 In the same training this group of workers are writing the strengths and weaknesses of their group. One of the leaders of the group Chitra seated on the left.
Thenmoli, our organiser for Persatuan Sahabat Wanita is interacting with the workers in this session.

Workers Earning Below Poverty Line
The workers who came for this training work for an electronic subcontracting company. The main Japanese company subcontracted one of their processes to this company in order to save costs. The workers are paid below the poverty line that is below RM720 per month. In order to meet their expenses they work overtime almost all the time. In a day they can work upto 12 - 14 hours!! All of them live nearby thus saving on transport costs, most of them cycle or ride a motorcycle to work. 

Feisty Lot
The workers don't have a union. They didn't even have an appointment letter when they started work. After trainings and interactions with Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, they asked their boss for a letter of appointment ... but they were given an English letter of appointment - none of them understood English! They are feisty lot ... they went back to their boss to ask him for a Malay letter of appointment. Their boss now is abit scared of their united front and have given them a RM30 rise. Some of them commented "Such miserly raise ... can't even buy a nice dinner for my family!" 

New Strategy
We are working with the leaders to plan another training on production mapping - a strategy they could use to bargain for better wages.

Decent Living Wage Campaign

Workers protest infront of Parliament
Civil society Demands for Decent Living Wage for All to Ensure Justice and Equality.

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 increased redistributive justice to workers who form a significant number in the citizenry of the country

Though the Human Resource 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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Malaysians For A Decent Living Wage.