1st priority for PM on return from honeymoon – first meeting with MTUC leaders in 44 months

I have today given notice to the Speaker, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah for an urgent parliamentary debate on the demand for minimum wage and cost of living (Cola) for private-sector workers in a motion of urgent definite importance on Monday.

This is the motion I will move on Monday:

“That under Standing Order 18(1), the House gives leave to Ketua Pembangkang YB Lim Kit Siang to move a motion of urgent, definite public importance, viz: the MTUC demand for minimum wage and cost of living allowance (Cola) for private sector with potential to result in large-scale industrial action.

“On Monday, 25th June 2007, Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) staged a 14-location nation-wide picketing by thousands of workers after discussions with the government on its campaign for a minimum wage of RM900 a month and cost of living (Cola) of RM300 for private sector employees came to a deadlock.

“A week earlier, MTUC presented a seven-page memorandum to the Prime Minister asking for minimum wage and Cola for the private sector but did not elicit any appropriate response.

“According to an MTUC study, some four million out of the 10 million workers it represents are earning below the poverty line. Even in Johor Baru where cost of living is extremely high, industrial workers are paid as low as RM390. Even five-star hotels in Kuala Lumpur pay a basic wage of RM290 per month to cleaners and waiters.

“The Prime Minister should initiate tripartite talks involving the government, MTUC and employer representatives on MTUC demand for minimum wage and Cola to avoid escalation of industrial action and ensure industrial peace with justice for three reasons:

  • A follow-up to the recent 35% salary increase and 100% increase in Cola for public sector employees to ensure that private-sector workers, especially in low-wage categories, are assured of a decent living and a basic fair wage;
  • The flooding of the country with millions of migrant workers on low wages and poor working conditions;
  • The loss of confidence of the MTUC in the Human Resources Minister YB Fong Chan Onn’s ability to resolve the issue.”

I am shocked to learn from the MTUC President, Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud that in his 44 months as Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had not had any single meeting with the MTUC leaders despite repeated MTUC requests for such a dialogue.

I can understand the depth of disenchantment of the MTUC leaders with Fong Chan Onn as the capability, influence and even seriousness of the Human Resources Minister come under grave question when he is unable to arrange even a single meeting between the Prime Minister and the MTUC leaders in 44 months.

Abdullah’s failure to meet with the MTUC leaders even for once in 44 months also casts an adverse reflection on the Prime Minister’s inclinations and sympathies, as a pro-labour Prime Minister would have had several meetings with MTUC leaders already in the 3 years and 8 months that Abdullah had been Prime Minister.

This is a great failing iof Abdullah’s 3-year 8-month premiership which he should rectify immediately.

For this reason, Abdullah’s first priority on his return from “honeymoon”-cum-official visit to Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Italy should be two-fold:

  • to meet up with MTUC leaders on their concerns and grievances; and
  • to initiate a tripartite dialogue on MTUC demand for minimum wage and Cola for private-sector workers to avert large-scale industrial action which would not be conducive to enhancing Malaysia’s much-troubled international competitiveness.

  1. #1 by Libra2 on Wednesday, 27 June 2007 - 2:26 pm

    What? Return from honeymoon? I thought he has been on honeymoon since the day he took office 44 months ago?

  2. #2 by k1980 on Wednesday, 27 June 2007 - 2:48 pm

    On honeymoon since the day he took office 44 months ago? With whom because Endon passed away not long after he took office.

  3. #3 by k1980 on Wednesday, 27 June 2007 - 3:21 pm

    A minimum wage of RM900 a month and cost of living allowance (Cola) of RM300 for private sector employees will draw another 50 million illegal immigrants from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Darfur, Congo and even the North Pole. Then mahatir’s dream of a 75 million population in this country will be achieved years ahead of schedule. That is if our schools, hospitals and other public amenities do not collapse first

  4. #4 by awesome on Wednesday, 27 June 2007 - 3:36 pm

    Aiyoh poor thing! He was grieving la after his’ ex-wife expired! Recently ONLY he fell in love and got married. In between he was in a state of ‘rindu’. When did he go for Honeymoon? Was it not suppose to be offical visit to foreign lands? Which I think have to be planned much earlier.

    Clever yeah…reason for visit..: work and pleasure ! NOT BAD! honey moon and official visit…who pay eh? Is it from his pocket or tax payers money/ government money!

    A bit unfair drag him out of lesiure and give him a shake up? Give him a break! Nevermind, he got deputies to handle it. Can they be trusted or are they waiting to usurp the power?

    What a dilemma he is in! Poor AAB!

  5. #5 by Sergei on Wednesday, 27 June 2007 - 3:38 pm

    Don’t worry MTUC
    Tingkat 4 will look into your needs in the new elusive plan

  6. #6 by undergrad2 on Wednesday, 27 June 2007 - 5:53 pm

    I’m sorry but this minimum wage thing. has there been an in-depth study of the consequences for businesses and for the government as the largest single employer?

    In the United States we have minimum wage of $7.50 per hour for many years. This has not been revised for some 20 years or more despite the fact the U.S. has all the legislation to protect their citizens and workers from exploitation – until this year when revision to some $8.00 per hour is to be implemented in stages.

    But this minimum wage has not deterred employers from employing those who are desperate for work and paying them cash at a lower rate – usually around $5.00 per hour. At this minimum wage the average worker in the U.S. is too poor to afford most things in life like decent accommodation. So what do they do?? They do two or three jobs to make ends meet. Jobs that pay minimum wage are those at fast food outlets, jobs as cleaners and temps who do from a few days to two to three months or less at any one workplace.

    Now during the summer break, you see high school kids working at fast food outlets earning their pocket money before making their way to college – mostly on their parents’ scholarships if they can afford, and working their way through each summer.

    My guess is that in Malaysia there is no in-depth study of what a minimum wage policy could cause the country. There will be higher income taxes. What would be the effect of higher income taxes in a country like Malaysia? Malaysia already has a steeply graduating income tax regime in our part of the world.

    What would be the consequences of a minimum wage across the board for our industries?? Will it not lead to an escalation in costs for the private sector? With such massive escalation in labor costs would it not act as a disincentive to saving and investment?

    Then there is the issue of the illegal work force working for less than the minimum. A similar situation exists in the United States. It is in the interest of the large U.S. corporations not to legalize illegal immigrants because then they could keep exploiting the cheap labor. Immigration is an issue which divides America today. Any minimum wage in Malaysia would not apply to illegals working for such low pay and on less than humane conditions.

  7. #7 by ReformMalaysia on Wednesday, 27 June 2007 - 9:11 pm

    The BN government reduced subsidies on oil price -so it affect the people purchasing power, causing hardship to the Rakyat. The the government raise the salary of the civil servants so the can regain the purchasing power…

    But for the poor lower income private sector employee- the government attitude is: ‘WHO CARES….YOU SOLVE YOUR OWN PROBLEMS’………

    Najib had once said ‘the subsidy for petrol is PERBELANJAAN HANGUS’ ……so when the private sector lower income employees live in poverty due to the chain-effect of increase in oil price and then Public Sector employee salary, the government do not really care….


    So… to people whose welfare are not bothered by the present government, We should give a show cause letter to the BN government -“why the shouldn’t be replaced”

  8. #8 by undergrad2 on Wednesday, 27 June 2007 - 10:01 pm

    “The the government raise the salary of the civil servants so they can regain the purchasing power…” ReformMalaysia

    When you raise salaries the general level of prices would sooner or later absorb much of this increase – which makes any monetary gain from such increase illusory.

    When you refer to purchasing power you are referring to the purchasing power of the ringgit vis-a-vis to other currencies.

  9. #9 by Bigfoot on Thursday, 28 June 2007 - 1:42 am

    I am surprised to hear that Badawi has not met any MTUC leader.

    I was talking to some of my friends only this past Tuesday night about a radio broadcast that I heard that evening which mentioned that Badawi had said something about workers resolving things properly. He further added that these workers should watch out, otherwise foreign workers would take their jobs. Finally he said something about foreign companies moving out to other countries, if labour rates were too expensive.

    What’s the harm in Badawi looking into a minimum wage for workers? Afterall, his administration has raised just about everything thing that is, from tolls to petrol. Even civil servants have gotten a pay rise. So what’s the harm in listening to people who are having a hard time making ends meet?

    It’s also bullshit saying that companies will go overseas, as they have already gone to places like China. And you cannot say that its labour wages is solely responsible for this, as Thierry Rommel has already pointed out, the NEP is overly protective. So, this all must be looked into as well.

  10. #10 by terencesgk on Thursday, 28 June 2007 - 11:09 am

    For me, it seems that the current government is making messes after messes, doing damages after damages. When AAB took over from Mahathir, one of his first policies is to increase the price of fuel by RM0.30 per litre, arguing that this would save the government billions of RM a year to improve the public transportation system. Following this, inflation creeps in and we experience the steepest price increase of goods and services, one after another, in our 50 years history causing dissatisfaction among the people. We recorded above 5% growth over those years but the effects are not feel by the people at large – SMEs, retailers, employees. The morale of workers drops and thus productivity and eventually competitiveness. Many people face problem to make ends meet. Almost everyone suffer, just a matter of more or less, because the government thinks that the right to the petroleum wealth is theirs (and probably forgeting that its their duty to instead ‘distribute’ those wealth to the people).

    Suddenly, the government got back some of their senses and decided that what the civil servants take home is not enough to allow them to live a decent life and thus gave them a handsome pay raise. Now, everybody want a piece of that ‘newfound wealth’ (they have been starving for quite sometime), like a pool of hungry crocs. So, price increase further. Big bro government come in to stop that, but they can only stop the smaller crocs (mamak, small traders etc) and not the big one (big companies). Now everybody cannot take it anymore and demand a minimum wage of RM900 plus COLA RM300 i.e. minimum gross pay of RM1200. This mean sweepers, tea lady etc. etc. should get a min. pay of RM1200. Well, although RM1200 is not really a big amount of money (by today’s cost of living) but this would definitely bring some serious economics consequences. If a sweeper get RM1200, do you think a clerk or a junior executive would be happy with RM1600. No way. These non-unionized group of the workers would also start to demand for a higher pay and the chain reaction continues. In view of these, then how much would these employers charge for their goods and services in order to make some decent profit since the economic cake is not going to get bigger at any time soon? So, this is definitely not workable. Hope those decision makers learned their lesson. If it ain’t break, don’t fix it.

    Sparing a thought for those low wage earner, however, how do they survive with their current meagre salary. Pity them too.

  11. #11 by shortie kiasu on Thursday, 28 June 2007 - 4:26 pm

    Abdullah is trying his level hard indeed to out-do and out-perform Mahathir in their records of travelling to all corners of the globe at the expenses of the taxpayers of Malaysia.

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