THE implementation of the minimum wage of RM1,500 that was approved on May 1, 2022 continues to divide the workers and employers in the country.
The government who is responsible for its implementation seems to be taking a cautious approach.
The decision to postpone the implementation of minimum wage in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) having five or less workers has raised questions about the sincerity of the newly minted government towards the welfare of the workers.
The argument in favour of postponing the implementation of the minimum wage order was dictated by the concern that employers in SMEs were not ready to accept the extra financial burden resulting from the minimum wage.
It is fair that the government considered the position of the employers, but then what about the employees? Like the employers, they were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many were unemployed or partially employed during the pandemic.
Some might have even lost their jobs; they might not even be the beneficiary of the minimum wage that might come in July 1, 2023.
I think it was fair on the part of the government to consider the financial position of the employers in the SMEs.
But at the same time, in order to obtain an impartial perspective, the government should have considered the financial position of the workers as well.
Only by considering the respective positions of the employers and employees, the government could have taken a stand on whether or not to implement the minimum wage order effective Jan 1, 2023.
The Human Resources Ministry should have provided the data on the financial position of both the employers and employees.
For the cabinet to make the decision, members should have been appraised about the state of affairs of these enterprises including the financial positions of both employers and employees.
Only after the provision of this information, could the government go ahead to implement the minimum wage order or to postpone it for some time.
If the government felt that the minimum wage might impose a greater burden on employers, then there are grounds to postpone the decision.
But what was done was a unilateral decision to postpone the minimum wage on the grounds that it might be burdensome to employers.
But unfortunately, the welfare and well-being of workers were not factored in the overall calculation.
I am not sure whether newly appointed Human Resources Minister V. Sivakumar had briefed the Cabinet on this matter sufficiently.
Minimum wage is a bare minimum amount to workers so that they could meet their basic subsistence needs.
It is not that minimum wage would fundamentally alter the financial position of workers overnight.
It is legislative mechanism to provide some kind of levelling field to close the gap between high income and low income.
I find it difficult to understand why the employers in this country remain a major stumbling block to the provision of subsistence wage to employees.
It is not that employers and workers function in a disjointed world.
The provision of workers welfare in the form of better wages and incentives are directly correlated to the improvement of the production process where the value of labour is instrumental in producing better and more refined products.
These products in turn will bring about higher profits to employers. Given this, I don’t understand why there is a need to suppress wages of the workers. – Dec 31, 2022
Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyman for Perai. He is also Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.