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No point for MTUC to talk with Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn who deliberately confuses Wages Council Act with the Employment Act as well as terms of remuneration and work conditions with minimum wage
by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is wrong that the demand by Malaysian Trades Union Congress(MTUC) for a RM900 minimum wage as well as a RM300 cost living allowance (COLA)must be discussed through negotiation without resort to actions that causes workers to lose out. Abdullah should realize that there is nothing more for the private sector workers to lose anymore.
For the past 44 months since Abdullah became Prime Minister, he has not even met MTUC officials to discuss these reasonable demands and other labour issues despite countless requests and memos sent. DAP expresses disappointment that Abdullah seems to be more concerned about foreign investors not wanting to come here or wishing to relocate because of high labour costs. The greater problem for foreign investors is not high labour costs but the difficulty in getting skilled labour force until they are forced to rely on foreign workers to fill in their factories.
Using foreign workers as a threat to forestall any rise in wages is a diversionary tactic to distract attention away from the justice of such demands for a minimum wage. There is no reason why civil servants can be accorded a pay rise but not private sector workers. Such an attitude smacks of double-standards and the innate bias of the government in looking after the interests of the employers more than the employees. For that reason the MTUC has the right to stage a nationwide picket in support of its demand seeking an amendment to the Employment Act 1955 to set the minimum wage and higher allowance.
There is no more point for MTUC to talk with Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn who deliberately confuses Wages Council Act with the Employment Act as well as terms of remuneration and work conditions with minimum wage. Fong said it was improper of the MTUC to have staged the picket because the ministry held dialogues with the congress at least once a month to enable it to raise issues. What is the use of holding dialogues when there is all talk and no action?
The Wages Council Act provides for the government to set up wages councils to study and determine the wages and work conditions if it is found that workers in certain sectors are not getting proper remuneration. This is different from seeking a minimum wage of RM 800 and COLA of RM 300. It is hard to believe that a qualified academic like Dr Fong does not know the difference.
If the government is serious and committed in looking after the welfare of workers in the country by ensuring fair and reasonable wages for lowly paid workers, then why are they not paid a minimum wage of RM 900? Is RM 900 so high when companies are recording record profits, especially the oil palm industry where oil palm prices have tripled but workers wages remain the same. Clearly Dr Fong should decide whether he is the Minister for employees or employers.
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP