KUCHING: Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF)’s attempt to paint the minimum wage increase as a scheme to benefit foreign workers instead of local workers has created fear and resentment.
Sarawak Bank Employees Union chief executive officer (CEO) Andrew Lo said this in a joint statement with Union Network International-Malaysia Labour Centre (UNI-MLC) president Datuk Mohamed Shafie BP Mammal and Labour Law Reform Coalition cochair Gopala Krishnan yesterday.
They (Andrew, Shafie and Gopala) further stated that they have no problem if MEF wanted to raise employers’ concerns on the increase in minimum wages and they need not be reminded that business was, is and forever will be challenging.
“However, what we are extremely annoyed with is the thinly veiled attempt to paint the minimum wage increase as benefitting foreign workers instead of local workers… (this) creates fear and resentment,” the statement pointed out.
According to them, blaming the recruitment system and forced labour in home countries is a classic case of shooting the messenger when in reality, it is employers in Malaysia that created the demand for foreign manpower — which resulted in 30 percent of workforce in the country are now foreign.
“If there is no demand, there will not be any supply and there will be no exploitation,” they said.
They added that it is again fear mongering to quote retrenchment figures of the media industry which has nothing do with minimum wage but a possible consequence of failure to adapt to technological and changing landscape.
They continued: “MEF also refuses to accept that it is the low wages that lead to low productivity as employers will not invest in productivity-enhancing technology as long as there is an abundant of cheap foreign labour.
“Instead it even blamed the proposed increase overtime threshold as causing low productivity.” The parties also noted that MEF now acknowledged the need for businesses to confirm to international labour standards.
“(However) why then does it so strongly object to the Amendments to the Industrial Relations Act that paved the way to Convention 87? Isn’t that being manipulative?” they questioned.
They were responding to a statement released by the MEF yesterday which said that the implementation of the RM1,200 minimum wage in 57 bigger cities and towns would result in confusion and anxiety among employers and employees as the demarcation of boundaries was unclear. In MEF’s statement, they called for the determination of wages to be based on the certified skills of the employees.
MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan in the statement also said, “Contrary to the view of Datuk Mohammed Shafie, the utilisation of foreign workers is a necessary evil and not due to the ‘addition to foreign workers.’”