KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 — An accord over minimum wage has yet to be reached as businesses and trade unions continue to argue over whether employers can consider benefits such as allowances as part of a floor wage that Datuk Seri Najib Razak said he may announce on May 1.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), the umbrella body that represents 800,000 workers from 390 labour unions, told The Malaysian Insider the issue has still not been resolved after last month’s National Wages Consultative Council meeting.
The committee, which advises the government on wage policy, had met on the back of small-medium industries (SMIs) warning that 80 per cent of active businesses could fold under a blanket floor wage, cutting four million jobs from the labour market.
The prime minister was initially slated to announce a base wage policy last month but The Malaysian Insider understands that pressure from employers has forced the government to return to the negotiating table although any delay will upset trade unions who have said that a minimum wage is long overdue.
“We are still arguing. For us, the figure is the basic, starting pay. But the employers want to count allowances and other benefits as part of the figure. So now it’s meeting after meeting, causing delays which favour employers.
“But if the PM wants to delay, it will be to his own disadvantage at the polls. For us, May 1 is too late as it should already be implemented,” MTUC president Khalid Atan said.
The Malaysian Insider reported that the 16 mainly Chinese industry associations that called a press conference on March 6 to call for a staggered implementation of floor wages had first gone to MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek for help before lobbying Putrajaya directly.
The Barisan Nasional (BN) government, which has been unable to win back Chinese support so far, has since held several meetings with the associations which are largely made up of SMIs.
Bloomberg reported last month that government officials are preparing for June 3 federal polls and Najib is due to announce a minimum wage of just under RM1,000 a month to win support from low and unskilled labour that makes up 75 per cent of the workforce.
Households earning under RM1,500 per month also make up 40 per cent of the population. The prime minister remained coy last night over the election date but said he hoped for a strong margin of victory if not a two-thirds parliamentary majority.
SMIs say they make up 99 per cent of operational companies and employ 59 per cent of all workers as they are the most labour-intensive outfits and will be hardest hit by a hike in wage bills.
They have instead asked for certain sectors and micro-enterprises to be exempted. They also want to be given anywhere between 12 and 18 months to implement a minimum wage that has been reported to be set at RM900 and RM800 for Peninsular and east Malaysia respectively.
But the MTUC insists that such demands are unreasonable as the minimum wage is reviewed every two years.