Source: Free Malaysia Today
Date: 2 May 2012
An economist, however, says that East Malaysians
would be grateful for the minimum wage but will be questioning the
JAYA: A political observer has branded the newly introduced mininum
wage as a “half-baked” attempt to settle a long-standing dispute.
James Chin of Monash University noted that if it was a living wage
that the government had in mind then the rate had to be nothing less
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak on Tuesday had instead announced a
minimum wage of RM900 and RM800 that had been set for Peninsular
Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak respectively.
In light of this, Chin dismissed any notion of the minimum wage
causing positive ripples for Barisan Nasional in an election that is
still tipped to take place next month.
“The strongest hint of this is the silence on the part of the
Malaysian Employers’ Federation (MEF) which is usually the first to
issue a statement,” he stated.
“MEF’s silence is a clear indication that the minimum wage will not
have any effect on employers or workers. It will benefit a small
minority and have a public relations impact but that’s about it.”
Chin also pointed out that unions had been lobbying for RM1,500 as
the minimum wage and therefore the proposed rate would not make any
He also questioned whether the rate was meant as a basic salary or overall pay.
According to him, if it was the former then those who are working in
low-end jobs would benefit, but if it was the latter then nothing would
“Many people in low-end jobs are already working overtime,” Chin
said. “And the rate doesn’t cover casual workers (workers paid on a
daily basis) as they too already work overtime.”
Another party that believed the minimum wage had fallen short was the
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), Sarawak branch, which balked at
the “unfair” gap between the two rates.
Its chairman, Mohamad Hamid Ibrahim, yesterday pointed out that the
cost of living was up to 25% higher in Sarawak and that workers at
fast-food outlets in Kuching were paid just before the poverty line of
‘East Malaysians would be grateful’
But Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) chairman Ramon Navaratnam
believed that many East Malaysians would nevetheless be grateful for
the minimum wage despite the discrepancy.
“Any gift is appreciated and this is one that is long overdue,” he
told FMT. “On the whole, the rate is more than satisfactory, acceptable
and very timely.”
He clarified that while the rate for East Malaysia was “technically”
reasonable it was however “politically ill-advised” as it could raise
questions of “perceived inequality”.
“Workers in East Malaysia may demand to know why they are being treated differently,” Ramon said.
“They may feel that they should be compensated more as they are
deprived of the facilities enjoyed by Malaysians in the Peninsula.”
Asked if this would bear a negative impact on BN during the next
general election, the prominent economist said that the number of
grateful East Malaysians would trump the number of unhappy voters.
“No there won’t be a backlash against BN,” he stated. “Anyway,
backlash is too strong a word to use for just a small group of unhappy
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