KUCHING: The increase in the cost of living due to the weakening ringgit and GST is worrying the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), which says the issues could define 2016.
The problem is further exacerbated when wages have not increased in tandem, leading to a drop in the standard of living, it said in a New Year statement recently.
“Such a situation will lead to higher income disparity and ultimately social unrest.”
With wages at only 32% of the country’s gross domestic product, ordinary Malaysians’ ability to cope with rising prices was hamstrung.
“While we cannot wholly blame the Government, it must be acknowledged that the Government’s economic and labour policy for the past 50 years has led us down this road.”
Its Sarawak secretary Andrew Lo said the newly formed committee to tackle rising prices is an example of a knee-jerk response.
“The committee would comprise of six ministries, but it does not seem that the Human Resources Ministry would be included as it has not been mentioned. How can we tackle rising prices without tackling low wages?” Lo asked.
Malaysia’s labour productivity has increased faster than wages has increased in the last decade.
Lo said there was “no question” employers can definitely afford to increase wages.
He also criticised the Government’s one-and-a-half-year delay on the minimum wage review.
“Also, the presence of foreign workers contributes to the malaise.
Without so many cheap foreign workers, wages would have gone up way higher and would have helped to absolve the increase in prices,” he said.
“Again the MTUC calls for a systematic development of trade unions to boost wages and productivity and to develop the consumer movement so that consumers can effectively force businesses to compete. MTUC wishes that 2016 will be a better year.”
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