KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), Sabah division, is alarmed by the recent statement of the Sabah Employers Association (SEA) that businesses must be ready for the revision in minimum wage in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.
Its secretary, Catherine Jikunan, said the minimum wage is due for revision and in actual fact it is supposed to be revised every two years.
She said Sabah workers are at a disadvantage as West Malaysian workers for the last four years are receiving much higher minimum wage.
“The last revision shows that West Malaysian workers are paid a minimum amount of RM1,000 whereby for those in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan are paid RM920 only. This should not happen because the cost of living in Sabah is much more expensive,” said Jikunan in a statement.
MTUC Sabah demanded the new government to urgently look into this matter and wants the new rate of the minimum wage to be the same in the whole of Malaysia.
“We want the new government to treat Sabahans as equal to the rest of the workers in Peninsular Malaysia,” she said.
MTUC Sabah added that its stand is that the minimum wage must be one rate for the whole Malaysia. Pakatan Harapan in its manifesto has pledged to set the minimum wage at RM1,500 across Peninsular, Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.
Jikunan further stated it is high time now for MTUC to demand for higher minimum wage as the workers in Sabah and Labuan have been left behind far compared to in Peninsular Malaysia.
In responding to SEA statement that only one dialogue session had been held by the technical committee representatives with both employers and employees in January, 2018, Jikunan explained that there were at least three sessions held by the Technical Committee in Kota Kinabalu, Tawau and Sandakan. The committee also had a direct engagement with the employers.
She further commented that the SEA should not be harping on the amount of RM1,500 in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto as the rate is achievable and reasonable.
“Sabah is rich in resources compared to other states in Peninsular Malaysia like Perlis, Kedah but these states are still able to pay the workers at the rate of RM1,000,” she stressed.
Jikunan called on the state government to support the workers’ proposal to equalise the rate of the minimum wage as one rate.
“It’s been too long that the workers in Sabah have been neglected,” she said.
She also wants the government to look into the case of workers in Sabah Forest Industry (SFI) of which almost 1,300 workers have been laid off for six months since January, 2018.
The SFI workers until now are still waiting for the SFI to call them to resume their work as promised. Jikunan hopes the new government are willing to have dialogue with MTUC Sabah to discuss the many issues of workers in Sabah/Labuan.
SEA recently said that Sabah businesses have to be ready for the revision in minimum wage given that this was a promise made by the new administration before the election.
Its president, Sabah Yap Cheen Boon, nonetheless said the economic discrepancies between West and East Malaysia must be equalised first before bridging the minimum wage gap.
He stressed the importance of understanding Sabah small and medium enterprises’ (SMEs) ability to shoulder the increase and the market implications arising thereafter.
Pakatan Harapan has pledged to set the minimum wage at RM1,500 across Peninsular, Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan in its election manifesto. At present, the minimum wage is RM1,000 in West Malaysia and RM920 for Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.