Sivakumar’s flawed excuses for delaying RM1500 minimum wage

Human Resource Minister Sivakumar’s arguments for delaying the RM1500 minimum wage implementation are flawed and defective. Here is a point-by-point rebuttal.

Why is the HR Minister Sivakumar’s argument flawed and defective?

  1. Firstly, in May 2022, Malaysia implemented a minimum wage of RM 1500 for all workers except those in the non-professional sector employing fewer than 5 workers. They were given until January 1, 2023, to implement it. From May until December 2022, there was not a single complaint or protest in the media or on social media. No one asked for an extension of time. Everyone was prepared to implement it, until suddenly, out of the blue, the new HR Minister said that they needed more time to implement and defer it for another 6 months. Where is the data? It appears as if there were some backroom dealings between these business interests and the Minister or Ministers for them to postpone or lobby in backrooms. Why wasn’t MTUC or other labor groups involved? Doesn’t the government know that a minimum wage of RM 1500 was the election promise in GE14 by both PH and BN?
  2. Was there really a cabinet decision because it is clear that there was no cabinet paper by the Minister on this issue in every cabinet meeting since the new government took office. So when the Minister says the cabinet consented to this, how did they do it? Did they do it in a WhatsApp group and tick on it because there is no cabinet paper for the minimum wage to be deferred? For the Minister to make such an important statement, he definitely should have evidence.
  3. There is also this argument that most of these SMEs will close down and workers will go jobless. Is this true? Just a week before that, the Prime Minister wanted all approval for foreign workers to be immediately hastened because there is a big shortage of labor. So we have a labor shortage and new workers, including migrants, will have to be paid a minimum of RM 1500. So what a contradiction? Workers losing jobs can be easily absorbed into higher paying jobs.
  4. This crying wolf each time the minimum wage is increased needs to stop. The minimum wage was implemented or increased in January 2013, July 2016, January 2019, and May 2022. Each time, MEF has cried wolf that many companies will shut down, but statistics show that SMEs in Malaysia have only increased in volume during this period, and there was no massive shutdown as has been alleged.
  5. Perhaps the most critical argument is that our Federal Constitution under Article 8 prohibits discrimination. We cannot have a law that gives a minimum wage for all workers except workers whose employers employ fewer than 5. Article 8(1) states that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law,” and 8(2) states, “except as expressly authorized by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth, or gender in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding, or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation, or employment.”

It is clearly spelled out that there is no discrimination based on employment. It goes against PM10’s expression of “anak melayu, anak cina, india, iban, kadazan anak saya”. Instead we see “children of big employers are my children, but children of employees who employ fewer than 5 are not my children.”

Let’s not deprive one segment of our poorest workers of a happy new year.

S. Arutchelvan
Deputy Chairperson
Parti Sosialis Malaysia

December 31, 2022

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