Don’t kill the Minimum Wage Act

*There are no plans to impose a mandatory RM1,500 minimum wage order for now following the adoption of a more progressive wage approach, says Rafizi Ramli.*

If there is no mandatory minimum wage, workers will suffer and be bullied because there has been no precedent of employers voluntarily raising wages by themselves. Evading and protesting every time the minimum wage has been introduced is a norm for employers and MEF. People like Rafizi, who don’t earn a minimum wage, will not understand this. Millions of workers heavily rely on the minimum wage. Only 2% of workers come under Union Collective Agreements, leaving 98% of low- to medium-earning workers vulnerable.

Unlike employers, we are alarmed and worried about the Progressive Wage Policy (PWP). What will happen to the compulsory minimum wage? The PWP, which Rafizi is so gung-ho about, is voluntary and not mandatory. No wonder employers are happy. Even getting employers to enforce the mandatory minimum wage is so difficult and always delayed.

Rafizi keeps talking about Singapore. Even in Singapore, the PWP is currently implemented in the cleaning, security, landscape, lift & escalator, and retail sectors only. How can Rafizi replicate the same thing here? For example, 150,000 cleaners in government schools and hospitals only rely on a minimum wage of RM 1500. They are paid by contractors who are changed every 3 years, meaning every 3 years the workers will be under a new employer. So, which employer is going to voluntarily increase wages when their tenure is only limited to 3 years?

According to the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s website, a total of 15 State Health Departments and 167 District Health Offices manage 145 Government Hospitals, 2838 Government Health Clinics, 196 Community Clinics, and 668 Government Dental Clinics. There are also around 10,000 Government schools. So, how is the PWP going to be implemented here for the cleaners and security guards when they don’t have permanent employers?

Similarly, for the private sector, will employers now revert to a permanent employment structure and job security, or will they focus on short-term fixed contracts to evade wage increments? Only a very few workers in the current structure are permanent.

Another issue is Rafizi saying the PWP is focused on workers earning less than RM 5,000, and workers must also prove that their productivity has increased. When productivity drops, why are only the lowest-paid workers punished? What about those earning the top salaries? We have never heard them take responsibility and accept a lower salary. Therefore, employers can easily blame workers for low productivity when the risk of any business should be borne by the employers and the bosses.

If the Madani concept is to help the lower-income group and tax the super-rich, the PWP seems to ensure no minimum wage while wage increase is voluntary to the absolute discretion and pleasure of the bosses.

Malaysia’s economy is also 1/3 controlled by GLCs. Will these GLCs first increase wages in accordance with the PWP?

So, Rafizi, please don’t dismantle the Minimum Wage Act that workers fought so hard for. The Minimum Wage Act is a minimum safeguard. If implemented, the PWP should be anything above a National Minimum Wage reviewed every 2 years. Don’t replace the Minimum Wage Policy with the Progressive Wage Policy, which will be disastrous for the working class. Just enhance it.

S. Arutchelvan
Deputy Secretary-General
Parti Sosialis Malaysia

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