Sabah employers left out of discussions over workers' benefits, claims association

KOTA KINABALU: Employers in Sabah will be on the losing end in the debate over benefits and fair compensation to workers, claims the Sabah Employers Association (SEA).

SEA president Yap Cheen Boon said employers have no say in the matter in issues such as the minimum wage revamp and extra Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributions.

Yap said there was no real representative of Sabah employers sitting in federal labour committees such as the National Labour Advisory Council and Minimum Wage Council.

"Now that the national arena is filled with arguments both for and against the various labour issues, Sabah employers can only sit on the sidelines and be spectators ... and prepare to accept whatever decisions are made in the end and react passively, just like before," he said in a statement on Wednesday (May 3).

During the Labour Day celebrations in Putrajaya on Tuesday (May 2), Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the government would discuss calls for employers to increase the amount they contribute to employees' EPF accounts to 20%.

The Prime Minister was commenting on the Union Network International-Malaysia Labour Centre's 12-point request, which included raising employers' EPF contributions and the retirement age.

Yap said it was time for the Sabah government to sit up and resolve the situation before it worsens.

He said big investments into the state rely on small businesses to service their supplementary needs, which if left to dwindle, will translate into rising business costs.

"Eventually, big investors themselves will face a similar plight as having to face the unjustifiably high labour costs against their more-developed Peninsular Malaysia counterparts," he said.

He added that Sabah did not have a dedicated human resource ministry for data collation and feedback, recommending policies in line with the state's situation as well as to allow government, employers and employees to interact inclusively befitting the tripartite principle.

This shortcoming, Yap said, could be alleviated in the short term by setting up a Sabah labour advisory council as mooted by Deputy Human Resources Minister Mustapha Sakmud.

He said this proposed council's primary function is to serve as a platform to deliberate policies or laws, with Sabah's unique situation taken into consideration, instead of often adopting Peninsular Malaysia's measures wholesale.

"It will also address multiple human resource issues ensuring employers' compliance, control labour costs, elevating workers' income by matching real skill sets with industry needs to increase productivity and expediting economic recovery with more employment opportunities.

"SEA urges the state government to set up the council without delay, with the first item on its agenda to review the Employment Act amendments.

"This is to be followed by the minimum wage and EPF contributions," Yap said, adding that these issues must not be ignored any longer.

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