Thursday, July 05, 2007

Minimum wage demand gets the boot

I am referring to this report in Malaysiakini that the Govt would not legislate for the minimum wage law.
That is dissapointing, why even China has minimum wage law, read here. Shenzen in China has minimum wage law of USD$106, equivalent to RM365 per month. Imagine that, some of us Malaysian got paid less than workers in China. Keep it up, and soon Chinese companies would relocate to Malaysia for want of cheap labour.

However, our Minister Fong said that "companies with strong union representation should be allowed to negotiate better wages". That is fair, but has our union busting rule/law have been amended to allow for umbrella nationwide unions for workers? Not as far as I know. So that is a dry statement, meaningless in other words.
Minister Fong also said, “They can get more than RM900, so why should we determine there should be that level?”. Link here.
I think our Minister misunderstood that minimum wage means just that, minimum allowable wage. Any employer can pay more, much more if they want to. Just that employer should not pay wages below the minimum wage rate. Who is stopping them paying more? Duh.

So the Govt is saying that the presence of 1.5 million foreign workers, legal or illegal is stopping them from adopting minimum wage law?
What economic model are following here?
Model 1: Saudi Arabia has 6 million guest workers, yet the unemployment rate amongst its citizens is about 30%. Saudi citizens do almost nothing even in their own homes, they employ maids, drivers and workers to do menial jobs, and also professional jobs. Yes they go for jobs like doctors, engineers and teachers but that leaves most of the population unemployed.
I can see it happening in Malaysia already. We employ foreign workers to do menial jobs and give them low pay, such that the well off Malaysians dont want those kind of jobs. In doing so, we forget that our less well off citizens are deprived of the chance of securing better wages to improve their lives and share the prosperity of the country.
There is one difference between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, that is in Saudi Arabia they have safety net, meaning social welfare payment for the unemployed and the poor. So what level of welfare payment are we planning to pay for the unemployed?
I dont believe that employing millions of foreign workers, letting thousands of Malaysians go unemployed and paying them dole is a good model.

Model 2: European countries has minimum wage law, same rule of minimum wage whether you are guest worker or citizen. Most countries has laws against employing illegal immigrants. Employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of colour, gender, religion etc. Everyone is treated equally, well at least in the eyes of the law.
So if we follow this model, and legislate minimum wage law, everyone, whether foreign worker of not should get at least minimum wage, no discrimination.
If we take this European countries model, employers would not have preference for foreign workers. Lets admit the facts that some employers prefer foreign workers because they are cheaper to employ than Malaysian workers. You can hire and fire them at will, treat them badly, assault them and maybe cheat them off their due wages (we read this in the paper sometimes).

Isnt it amazing that that our Govt want to continue this to go on? I am dissapointed with our elected representatives.

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