THE Human Resources Minister’s announcement that he has approached ambassdors of Africian nations about the possibility of providing workers for our plantation sector is a matter of concern for us.
The minister attributes his action to the fact that workers from Vietnam and Indonesia are shying away from working in the plantation sector. And the reason for that is that wages in their country have grown to match wages paid by the Malaysian plantation sector.
This brings into focus the question of whether wages of the Malaysian plantation workers have stagnated in comparison with wage empowerment in Vietnam and Indonesia?
What needs to be addressed is whether we source for an alternative influx of immigrant workers at “competitive” wages from Africa, or anywhere else for the matter, or we elect to empower the wage levels within the country.
None other than Bank Negara Malaysia has called for a “living wage” to be adopted as opposed to the current “minimum wage” concept.
Given the fact that the current minimum wage of RM 1,100 is judged as inadequate by Asean workers, we are of the view that there is a serious mismatch of wage levels in Malaysia when compared with Vietnam and Indonesia. The solution, therefore, in our opinion, is for our country to move up the wages’ chain lest we are looked upon as a “low wage dumpsite”.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress Penang Division therefore wishes to reiterate its demand that the government introduces a living wage that would attract local workers to take up jobs not only in the plantation sector but all other sectors as well.
In conclusion, it is our view that sourcing labour from one region or another can never be a solution unless our government empowers our workers with an equitable living wage.
MTUC Penang Division