KUALA LUMPUR: Several groups have welcomed the deal, which estate workers signed with plantation owners to receive a guaranteed minimum wage each month although some questioned the RM350 amount.
MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said the agreement between the National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW) and the Malaysian Agricultural Producers Association (Mapa) would bring out a change in the estate community and lead to better pay for the workers.
He said the MIC had been fighting for the monthly wage for the past seven years and had submitted a report to the Cabinet a few years ago.
He praised the NUPW for negotiating the agreement and hoped the pact would be ratified soon with the consent of the Industrial Arbitration Court.
Under the agreement, some 58,000 labourers will be paid RM350 if their earnings for the month fall below the figure. Previously, the workers had to rely solely on income from tapping rubber, based on the yield produced.
The agreement, signed at the Human Resources Ministry on Tuesday, is effective from Jan 1 this year to 2005.
India Progressive Front president Datuk M.G. Pandithan said the signing was an achievement but the IPF was disappointed with the RM350 minimum monthly wage.
It is time Mapa look into it and consider giving a higher wage to reflect the living standards in the country, he said.
DAP deputy secretary-general M. Kulasegaran said he had attempted to introduce an urgent motion to discuss the minimum wage for estate workers in Parliament in April 1998 but was rejected by the Speaker.
He urged the Government to give their stand and rationale on a minimum wage for the estate workers.
Kulasegaran, a former Teluk Intan MP, said Mapa should request their members to allocate land for housing, medical benefits and contributions to the Employees Provident Fund for estate workers.
Selangor DAP chairman M. Manoharan termed the wage as ridiculous and deemed it as an insult to the plantation community.
How can a family of five survive with this kind of salary? They (Mapa) dont have the interest of the workers but their profits,'' he said.
He said Mapa had ignored NUPWs calls for discussions for a RM350 wage for over two years but when it went to the Industrial Court, they had a change of heart.
MTUC president Senator Zainal Rampak also expressed disappointment, adding that the minimum wage was RM200 below the poverty rate.
The estate workers have contributed greatly to the economic development of the country though the demand is not that much now, he said.
He said the Government should consider introducing legislation to implement the MTUC proposal for a minimum of RM900 wage for workers of all sectors, including the estate workers.
The Plantation Workers Support Committee (PWSC) said the RM350 guaranteed wage deal is a shame and an insult to the plantation workers towards the development of the industry and the country.
PWSC co-ordinator Kohila Yanasekaran said the plantation industry had for the past 150 years been stuck in the chains of poverty, continuously exploited and oppressed for the sake of profit.
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