Monday, February 6

Wage issue: Coffeeshop owners forced to make hard decision

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(Seated, from left) Kuching Coffeeshop and Restaurants Association’s general affairs officer Chong Hen Hin, treasurer Lim Kwan Kui, Teo, Chieng, and its welfare officer Chang Kian Keng join (standing, from left) deputy chairman Chiew Kok Lian, welfare officer Francis Hu and Tan in a photo-call.

KUCHING: The Kuching Coffeeshop and Restaurant Owners Association has decided that their members will stop providing accommodation and meals for their workers, effective next year, following the increase in minimum wage.

In this respect, association chairman Teo Giap Liew regards the coffeeshop-restaurant industry as being different from other industries because not only that the operators have to adhere to the minimum wage policy, but they also provide accommodation and three meals a day for their workers.

He says should the costs of running a coffeeshop or a restaurant escalate further, they may have to contemplate reducing the numbers of workers and slash their working hours to cope with the challenging environment.

He is also worried that the situation may eventually force its members to cease operations due to escalating costs, causing many people to lose their jobs, which could indirectly result in more social ills.

“Because of this latest (minimum wage) announcement by the federal government, it is the stand of our association and our members that we decide to cancel the provision of accommodation and meals to our workers,” Teo told reporters during a press conference held at a restaurant along Jalan Padungan here yesterday.

On Wednesday, the Human Resources Ministry announced that the federal government had approved to raise the minimum monthly wage to RM1,200 in 57 cities and municipalities, while the wage level for the rest of the country would remain at RM1,100.

In Sarawak, areas that are covered under the latest revised minimum wage regulation are North and South Kuching, Padawan, Kota Samarahan, Sibu, Miri and Bintulu.

In this respect, Teo viewed that such revision on the minimum wage – made without taking into account the interests of all stakeholders – could harm the country’s economy in the long term, and eventually could create unnecessary consequences.

As such, he called upon the federal government to balance the interests of workers and industry players – in this case, the owners of coffeeshops and restaurants.

Meanwhile, association committee member Tan Yit Sheng said the worker’s salary was in the range RM500 to RM600 before the implementation of the Minimum Wages Order 2012 on Jan 1, 2013.

“Due to this lower salary scale back then, we decided to provide accommodation and meals for our workers. The situation now is different, since their income level is almost the same as the white-collar employees,” he said.

According to association’s secretary Stephen Chieng, there are about 500 members in the association, while the number of coffeeshops and restaurants in Kuching are approximately 3,000.

“About 30 years ago, workers always asked me whether or not accommodation would be provided before accepting any job offer. Now, they would ask how much we would be paying them,” said Chieng, acknowledging that the provision of accommodation was no longer the top priority for workers looking for jobs.

Nevertheless, Tan said business owners would still assist workers to look for accommodation should they request for it, but the workers would have to bear the expenses on their own.

Moreover, Tan called upon non-members of the association and those from other cities across Sarawak to follow suit, with regard to the decision to stop providing accommodation and meals for their workers.

“This would create a healthier business environment and avoid intense competition,” he said.