Rahimy Rahim and Yuen Meikeng
In his reply to points raised during debate, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam gave his assurance that stakeholders would continue to be consulted in any decision on minimum wage.
“The Government guarantees that it will continue to listen to the biggest trade union and employers' federation before making any decision on issues of minimum wage.
“There is no hidden agenda by the Government. We take this step to ensure workers will get the wages they deserve,” said Subramaniam, pointing out that having a minimum wage had benefitted socio-economic development in the United States, China, Taiwan and other countries.
The minister also promised that a committee comprising economists, academicians and industry experts to determine the definition of minimum wage would be transparent, adding that the outcome at each meeting would be published.
“We will not hide any detail or discussion. It will be made public,” he said, adding that this would be published every two years in order to let the committee review its decision periodically.
The Bill, which aims to set up a council to recommend the minimum wage for various sectors, regions and jobs, will also see employers punished with a RM10,000 fine for each worker if they fail to pay the basic salary.
Earlier during the debate, Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan Onn (BN- Alor Gajah) suggested that the Bill should include a decent fixed hourly rate for students and retirees working as part-timers.
“They will be more interested in part-time jobs if they are given a decent standard hourly rate,” he said, adding that the rate of minimum wage should also be flexible, especially in Sabah and Sarawak where the costs of living were different.
The four-hour long debate on the Bill was not without its drama when M. Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat) that it be referred to a Parliamentary select committee under Standing Order 54 (2).
However, 69 MPs voted against the proposal as a bloc while 29 agreed.
In an immediate reaction, MTUC president Mohd Khalid Atan said the ministry should not decide on who should sit on the council.
He said unions like MTUC as well as the Malaysian Employers Federation should be allowed to choose the council members as these groups were more aware of issues on the ground.