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Published: Friday March 29, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday April 24, 2013 MYT 2:14:00 PM

Minimum wage will not alleviate labour shortage, says timber body

KUCHING: Despite guarantees of better pay under the minimum wage policy, the Sarawak Timber Association (STA) says labour shortage is still a problem.

“STA strongly feels that, in reality, the implementation of minimum wage will not alleviate the shortage of labour in the forest and timber industry in Sarawak due to the nature of the work,” STA chairman Pemanca Datuk Wong Kie Yik said yesterday.

Speaking at the opening of STA’s annual general meeting, Wong said labour shortage was partly due to Sarawak’s small population, and not only due to salary.

“The labour shortage is further aggravated by the small population, in which a high proportion of the population has higher levels of education,” Wong said. “The industry relies on foreign labour, who are willing to work in the forests and timber industry in Sarawak, as Malaysians themselves are not keen to take up these jobs.”

STA, which represents the timber industry, is one of the most influential bodies in the state. Minimum wage came into effect on Jan 1 this year.

In Peninsular Malaysia, the minimum wage is set at RM900 a month, while in Sarawak and Sabah, it is set at RM800.

Wong said STA was not against the intention of minimum wage, describing the spirit of the legislation as “good” and aimed at ensuring “more Malaysians to join the (local) workforce”.

“STA took great effort to highlight concerns on the effects of minimum wage if the Govern-ment implements the policy hastily without proper study,” Wong aid.

“Some of the issues we highlighted were on the unfair treatment between local and foreign employees, if the policy failed to take into consideration benefits in kind such as accommodation, meals and transportation as well as allowance that foreign employees are given.

“These significantly increase labour cost due to the ripple effect on employees earning in the region of RM800 in Sarawak.”

Wong also said the industry had been unable to increase product prices in line with increasing production costs.

His comments on labour shortage and minimum wage are in line with recent ones by Sarawak Housing and Real Estate Developer Association secretary-general Sim Kian Chiok.

Sim told The Star recently that construction labourer salaries were already well above the minimum wage level due to an acute shortage of workers.

Sim also said the industry continued to rely on foreign labour to make up for the diffe-rence.

Tags / Keywords: Community, News, Business, timber, STA, Sarawak, minimum wage, foreign labour

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