Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pursuit of Minimum Wage

I just found out about this news on page 2 of yesterday’s The Malay Mail. Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali has been stripped of his Kelantan datukship. He remained defiant and in his typical brash style, he insisted that the loss of the title has not affected him at all. In fact, he said he still holds two titles which carry the Datuk award from Selangor and Malacca. Wouldn’t it be great if Selangor also takes the cue and revokes his datukship? I am not hopeful of my home state, Malacca, though because the Governor is a political appointee.

Participants at the minimum wage forum. Photo courtesy of The Malaysian Insider

It was reported in The Malaysian Insider that trade unionists remained dejected and disappointed yesterday as rhetoric dominated a minimum wage forum organized by the BN Youth and Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC). Now I don’t quite understand how BN Youth got involved in this but if they can push the government into having a minimum wage policy – here I define ‘minimum wage’ as ‘living wage’ – I can buy their engagement. One of the panelists, Professor Dr Durrishah Idrus had declared that the government must have the political will to implement minimum wage. NUBE secretary-general J Solomon warned that the ruling BN government will experience a backlash if they don’t fulfill their promise on minimum wage.

As far as I can gather, there was only one dissenting voice among the panelists – National Productivity Corporation representative Hajah Shahuren Ismail (left) who had the temerity to argue that employers are not able to increase wages because productivity of the workers are insufficient.

A member of the audience had shouted at Hajah, “We are getting sick of this. Training here and there but our wage still remains the same.” And another added: “You can talk about output and input but in the end, all is left is just ‘siput’ (empty shell).” This reflected a rising groundswell of bristling anger at the government’s stonewalling in introducing a minimum wage policy. This Hajah is talking crap and besides, we cannot equate productivity to minimum wage – they are two separate issues!

Even Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) representative Sarita Beram Shah played it safe when she said that only a minority of employers are against minimum wage. She put it correctly when she said “I also believe that if we give suitable minimum wage then I will get quality workers that are productive. If the workers are happy and able to perform then the company will profit.”

Still, unionists remain unsure if BN’s sudden interest in a minimum wage policy is genuine or just an election ploy ahead of possible snap polls soon. And talk is rife that the federal election is coming sooner than we think.

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