Have living wage instead of minimum wage, says MTUC

MTUC says the lack of a living wage was the reason workers, including migrant workers were working long hours.

KUALA LUMPUR: It is time to move away from a minimum wage to a living wage, a wage that will enable workers to meet their basic economic needs, says the Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).

Penang MTUC secretary K Veeriah said today the National Minimum Wages Council should be re-branded as the National Living Wage Council with power to decide on a nationwide living wage.

He said the lack of a living wage was affecting workers. It was the reason workers, including migrant workers, were working long hours.

He was commenting on a report in FMT about migrant workers of Top Glove working long hours to pay off huge debts.

He said this was just the tip of the iceberg.

“The fact that workers in Malaysia work overtime and on their rest-day and even public holidays is a sad reflection of the economic pressure that they face as a result of the ever escalating cost of living that prevails in the country. Cases of workers doing more than one job is a openly known fact.

“In the equation of wages in our country the migrant workers are entrapped in bondage as a result of the unjust charges that are imposed on them by uncaring recruiting agents or agencies in their country of origin.”

Veeriah said working long hours resulted in a deterioration of the workers’ physical and mental health.

“If a worker works a 48-hour week, he would have worked a total of 192 hours in a month. If he works the maximum permissible overtime of 104 hours per month he would have worked 296 hours per month – working out to a total of 37 man-days a month.

He said the man-days were derived by dividing 296 hours by 8 hours per day.

Veeriah said the only way to overcome this situation was to pay workers a living wage and not a minimum wage.

“Our nation ought to move away from the module of a minimum wage to that of a living wage i.e. a wage that would enable workers to meet their basic economic needs.”