Rocketing cost of living and low wages – we need government intervention!

Motivated by a desire to amass wealth, uncaring employers have always sought to suppress wages.
When other countries, such as Singapore and South Korea embarked on attaining a high wage income society in the 1980’s, our political leadership took the approach of suppressing wages by flooding the labour market with an infusion of migrant workers.

With very low unionisation rate of workers, no thanks to the pro-capital labour legislation in force since independence, millions of workers have been deprived of the numerical strength to progress wage enhancement through the collective bargaining process. Pivoting on both the lack of trade union membership density and the restrictive labour laws denying workers even their fundamental right to strike, the working population has been, systematically, denied a decent wage. A Bank Negara Malaysia study has identified that our nation ought to embrace a “living wage” module of wage determination as opposed to the “minimum wage” concept so preferred by our political leadership.

In spite of a surge in the prices of essential goods, employers organisations such as the MEF, FMM and the SME are opposed to an increase in the minimum wage premised upon the age old argument that businesses cannot survive with a minimum wage of RM1500.00.

I am of the view that the theory of the survival of the fittest ought to prevail. If employers cannot pay a decent living wage they should not enslave workers with exploitative wages. To be blunt, employers who have no capacity to pay a decent wage, have no right to a claim of being pay masters! To the misplaced arguments by the employers for a cheap wage system, I say you do not deserve to remain in business unless you are committed to uplift wages to a “living wage” as propounded by Bank Negara Malaysia.

To argue that a minimum wage of RM1500.00, would threaten the survival of the micro, small and medium enterprises, is akin to saying that our workers ought to continue to wallow in the depths of the vicious low and middle income trap just so that employers can continue to stay in business.
Under such circumstances it is my view that it would be appropriate for the intervention of the government to correct the wage inequality for the benefit and well-being of the people.
The government cannot posture itself as the saviour of the people until and unless it has the unwavering commitment to immediately implement a sustainable living wage for workers.

K. Veeriah

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