PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has urged Putrajaya to raise the minimum wage by the second quarter of the year instead of the end of 2022.
MTUC deputy president Effendy Abdul Ghani said while he welcomed plans to raise the minimum wage from RM1,200 to RM1,500, he questioned why it would only be done towards the end of the year.
He said the increment should be carried out by the second quarter of 2022 at the latest.
On Friday, human resources minister M Saravanan said a minimum wage of “around RM1,500 a month” could be expected before the end of 2022, though the new rate had not been finalised as his ministry was awaiting Cabinet approval.
Effendy pointed out that the tripartite National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) involving employees, employers and the federal government had yet to meet since the change of government in 2020.
“We urge the government to call for tripartite discussions among employees, employers and the government on the issue of raising the minimum wage.
“Just recently, FMT reported that basic food prices were racing ahead of the minimum wage, which goes to show why the minimum wage raise needs to be done as soon as possible.
“(Saravanan’s statement) meets our target of RM1,500, which was MTUC’s proposal all along to the government. But raising it towards the end of the year is too late. We should discuss doing so in the first or second quarter of the year,” he said.
Effendi also questioned a contention by the Malaysian Employers Federation that the increase would “kill businesses” after the economic shocks brought about by the pandemic and the recent floods.
Effendi said the MEF’s reasoning was similar to what it had said when Putrajaya introduced the minimum wage in 2012, where it warned that many small-time employers would be forced to close their business.
But he questioned how many small- and medium-sized enterprises had actually been forced to close shop as a result of the minimum wage.
Instead, he argued that the number of small businesses had increased since then.
“I think employers know that the minimum wage will be revised once every two years, as required by the National Wages Consultative Council Act 2011. That’s basically the minimum wage act in the country.
“So all employers should be ready. We know that the most powerful reason now is the Covid-19 pandemic. But from our side, we still insist that the government implement the raise in the minimum wage as soon as possible.
“The cost of living is very high now. It’s high time that the government, through the NLAC, discusses a living wage, moving away from the minimum wage.”
The minimum wage was last increased in February 2020, from RM1,100 to RM1,200 per month.