Saturday, January 22

Sabah bosses want gradual minimum wages

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KOTA KINABALU: It is important to understand the constraints faced by employers in Sabah before the government decides to implement the minimal wages for employees nationwide.

“The situation in Sabah is not the same as those in Peninsular Malaysia. While most employers are sincere people, and are all willing to pay more, there are certain issues that need to be considered,” said Federation of Sabah Manufacturers president Datuk Seri Panglima Wong Khen Thau, yesterday.

Speaking on behalf of  employers in the state, Wong said they are proposing a quantum for minimum wage which is reasonable and affordable for employers, and at the same time able to satisfy the basic needs of new workers.

“The cost for doing business in Sabah is high. Even our living costs are high while our standard of living is still low. The proposed rate takes into account food, lodging and transportation needs commonly provided for the workers,” he said.

Wong said the effect of minimum wage on sectors and industries will likely drive prices up if immediate implementation is forced upon them, thus further burdening the workers and lower-income consumer groups.

“Unless the government puts in place a mechanism to achieve 1Country, 1Price, introducing minimum wage will not benefit workers much in raising their living standards.

“Our priority should be to address the high cost of doing business in Sabah which will translate to lower and more affordable prices of goods, to ease the burden of high prices on the workers and lower-income group,” he said during the Luncheon Dialogue on the Minimum Wage – Perspective from Sabah’s Employers and the signing of Memorandum of Understanding between FSM Institute of Training and Job Hunt Sdn Bhd.

Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Maznah Mazlan launched the event and later sat through during the dialogue.

Wong said that in view of the state’s challenging economic environment, Sabah employers want gradual, rather than immediate implementation of the minimal wages.

“A grace period of three years should be extended, particularly to certain sectors and industries that will face huge increase in wage costs, to initiate structural measures to adapt to the new environment that ensues. A blanket minimum wage affects these sectors and industries the most.

“However, some measure of flexibility in terms of staggered implementation will help maintain their competitiveness and survivability, which otherwise could potentially be threatened should immediate implementation be introduced,” he said.

Wong stressed that the minimum wage should neither be used as an effective tool for preventing poverty, nor reducing income inequality. Rather it should function solely to ensure that workers have a decent living standard, meeting the basic needs of food, lodging and transportation.

“Negotiation and decision process on minimum wage should involve both employers and employees in a transparent manner throughout.

“This is to enable an active, robust exchange with outcomes more reflective of actual industry and sector situations,” he said.