KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) today criticised Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remark that low wages are better than none at all, saying it might send a wrong signal to employers.
MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said it could be taken to mean that slave labour or sweatshop conditions are acceptable in Malaysia, and that employers could use it as an argument to continue giving low salaries.
He welcomed the government’s pledge to improve labour laws and workforce processes to resolve issues between bosses and workers, but said the prime minister should clarify his comment.
“A debate over low wages versus none should not even be in the equation as employers may think that it is their right to give low salaries.
“It is not politically correct to argue for low wages when it is already established in studies by Bank Negara Malaysia and many others that workers face financial problems due to low pay,” he said in a statement.
He also cited a study by Khazanah Research Institute released on Oct 15 last year which said that the absolute earnings gap between the top 20% and the rest of the population had nearly doubled despite a reduction in official income inequality.
“This puts more Malaysians in relative poverty,” he added.
Mahathir had said in his Labour Day message that Malaysians should take up dirty, dangerous and difficult or 3D jobs rather than remain unemployed. Without work, he said, there would be no income.
However, Solomon said to advocate a debate of low wages versus none would only deepen inequality and stunt demand for goods and services necessary to sustain output and employment growth.
If workers’ real earnings fell, he said, they would have less to spend. When people spend less, the demand for goods and services falls along with the demand for jobs, he added.
“When employers do not pay workers a decent wage, it will ultimately place a significant burden on the government as it will need to find ways to pay the poor, particularly the B40, at a later period,” he said.
He said the situation reflects the failure of the government’s education policies, adding that many graduates leave university with qualifications that do not meet the demands of a developing economy.
He added that the work-class structure accords little appreciation for workers from the 3D sector despite their valuable contributions to development.
“It is important for policymakers to have a strategy to tackle the causes of low pay, as well as the characteristics of low-paid work that lead to job insecurity,” he said.
“The increased risk of job insecurity exacerbates the impact of low wages on individual and family living standards.
“They would have limited ability to build up economic assets such as housing, and only low EPF contributions and poor retirement prospects which will only burden the government at a later point.”
He urged the government to find ways to improve the people’s lot by paying higher wages for such jobs and drawing up new plans to combat the cost of living.
“When all jobs pay decent wages, Malaysian workers will be prepared to take on any job. It is time for the government to help the workers who are trapped in this sector by making their environment better and providing adequate safety and security measures, not telling them to be eternally grateful for the 3D jobs,” he said
Source : https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/…/mtuc-warns-against-low…/