Why reduce the salary of ‘Work From Home’ workers?

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) objects to the recent proposal by the Malaysian Employers’ Federation (MEF) which states that the salaries of workers who choose to ‘work from home’ (WFH) be reduced by as much as 10% to 12%.

This statement clearly reflects the greed of the capitalists who only prioritize profits and fail to understand the reality of today’s workers in Malaysia. Moreover, we are unsurprised because they also do not support any improvements for workers, such as setting a minimum wage of RM 1500 beginning of May 1, 2022.

The MEF should better understand the benefits of WFH for workers in terms of mental, emotional and even physical health. Most of those who work from home are typically those who have to go through traffic jams to get to their offices — a common and expected occurrence for jobs located in big cities such as Kuala Lumpur.

The government’s plans to increase the use of public transport is still inadequate; and although MRTs and LRTs have been built, many workers still face issues using these facilities due to traffic congestion which results in intermediate buses not being punctual. This forces many workers who rely on public transportation to waste time waiting, on the way to and from work. Precious time that could have been spent with their families unwinding or on self-care. Not a single employer considers this additional travel time as part of working time.

Furthermore, isn’t the MEF aware that many workers cover the high cost of buying or renting a place of residence, in order to be nearer to their place of employment? This is not covered by their employers, forcing workers to choose between conveniency of commuting to work or having their monthly allowance reduced. So for those who can only afford to live far away from work, they are required to spend several hours solely on traveling to work. In addition to experiencing road congestion and frequent flash floods within the city.

The MEF also discussed the reduction or full deduction of workers’ travel allowances. This is unfair for workers in most companies who use the excuse of the additional allowance as part of the worker’s overall salary without contributing to their EPF (Employees’ Provident Fund). If the MEF wants to cut these allowances, it is necessary for them to also increase workers’ salaries to offset its impact.

According to Kisi’s Work-Life Balance Report 2020, workers in Malaysia are the fourth most overworked, among 50 other countries. This means that although many workers may work from home, there is no impact on productivity. On the other hand, it saves costs for employers — as they spend less on utility bills and rent, for their offices.

Thus, with the level of productivity not decreasing along with the costs of maintaining an office, what is the rational explanation for employers to cut workers’ salaries?! Absolutely none. In addition, office costs are now passed onto the workers, when the use of electricity, water and internet in their homes increases when working from home.

Working from home also means that the employer exploits workers’ working time of more than 8 hours without the need to compensate them for their overtime duties.

With the various savings enjoyed by employers due to their employees working from home, the MEF’s proposal to cut wages is simply dehumanizing and unfair, as their goal is to only maximize profits by depriving their workers of the full value of their labor.

The MEF should be made aware that workers are the key assets of all industries and their rights should be defended. They should throw out their proposals and increase their salaries in order to cover the shift of utility costs from office to home. Working from home (WFH) should also be encouraged — to reduce the emotional and mental stress experienced by many workers due to the various issues stated above.

Geetha Anbalagan
Workers Bureau
Socialist Party of Malaysia (Parti Sosialis Malaysia)
29th April, 2022

Translated from Malay by Nicole Ashley

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