Ok, there should be a consultative process somewhere, right? I believe the various parties with stronger bargaining position and connection will dominate the discussion (in addition to those I categorised as "Malaysia only pressure group" like Perkasa)
However it is for the men / women in the street that the socialist democrat in me that make me wanna speak up for them. Perhaps some soul from Parti Sosialis Malaysia would like to add on to my comments as well.
page 111 highlighted some potential trade offs:
*Reduced dependence on foreign labour encourages firms to move up the value chain or embrace automation while those that cannot will exit, costing some local jobs
* Flexible hiring and firing reduces entry and exit costs for businesses while wage levels will better reflect skills; but the perception of less job security will irk unions
page 114 got me thinking:-
Some have suggested that a formal minimum wage might be helpful to cushion workers against such shocks or downturns. The NEAC strongly believes this would be a wrong approach and in fact could exacerbate the situation by reducing competitiveness and reducing employment opportunities.
Blue collar workers are at the bottom of the food chain. The booklet correctly stated the potential danger for them - lack of job security. Now giving thumbs down to minimum wage scheme is adding salt to injury, especially when subsidies would be withdrawn gradually as well. Sounds like some people would be pushed to the corner, albeit the booklet did mention a bit about social safety net.
Saying minimum wage would erode competitiveness is not absolutely correct. According to Yazhou Zhoukan (Asian Weekly) 11 April 2010 edition, in 2009 the hourly wage (in US Dollars) for the following countries are as follows:-
South Korea 3.22
Dare we say they are not competitive?
I have seen with my own eyes a factory worker in Seri Damansara get paid RM25 for an 8 hour shift, that make up to RM0.89 ( updated : should be USD0.89 x-rate USD1 = RM3.50, thanks to Mark C & Little Bird. My apologies and lame excuse of a long day in office) per hour. Back in the 1950's Malaysia were much much richer than Taiwan or Korea ravaged by wars then.
Another issue needs considering is that as Malaysia moves (hopefully) towards high income society, rental rates would increase, no thanks to speculators and bidders. According to the magazine quoted above, there are cases in Hong Kong where employers would pass on the negative impact to the workers. Who is there to speak up for them?
One example cited was a restaurant in Hong Kong which rental was HKD90,000 per month. The owner increased it to HKD160,000, forcing the operator to squeeze their workers but ultimately the owner terminated the lease to seek even higher rental. Incidentally, Hong Kong is a place where there is no minimum wage scheme hence the blue collar work force tend to bear the brunt of economic issues whether is inflation or recession.
One alternative is what the labour union scene in America and United Kingdom are going for - Living Wage Campaign.
"Living wage is a term used to describe the minimum hourly wage necessary for shelter (housing and incidentals such as clothing and other basic needs) and nutrition for a person for an extended period of time (lifetime). In developed countries such as the United Kingdom or Switzerland, this standard generally means that a person working forty hours a week, with no additional income, should be able to afford a specified quality or quantity of housing, food, utilities, transport, health care, and recreation."
I feel that Malaysian employers can be more creative and diligent in taking care of its workers. We must move from exisiting mindset of giving the bare minimum to foreign workers to developing a social conscious and responsible mindset in looking after our fellow Malaysians. To this end, perhaps something like Triparite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices be established to promote win-win situation for both employers and employees - a happy employee is a productive employee. (Of course the current work ethics and attitude of the Malaysian workers can be another topic itself).
I strongly believe it is the government's morale and mandatory responsibility to enable its citizens to live in safety and with dignity.
For decades, the declining health services (how many more negligent and cool heart cases resulting in deaths and permanent disabilities we still have to bear before a "hard working" Health Minister will look into this matter SERIOUSLY), government wastages, increased cost of living via privatisation and rent seeking models etc.
Time for change! Time for tax payers and citizens to say "We deserve better. We have rights. A minister is a public servant, not some feudal honcho."