High crime, low wages - who
Andrew Lo | Apr 17, 08 3:19pm
MTUC is very concerned
about the huge number of house break-ins and other crimes
against properties like motor theft, cable theft, and snatch
thieves. The situation is getting very alarming with armed
robberies now happening, not just break-ins. Apparently, no
one is safe - including the VIPs with state-of-art alarm
systems, security guards and heavily-fortified homes.
It is very easy to blame the police for
all this but MTUC believes that we must have a hard look at
the underlying cause of all these crimes. It is no
coincidence that the crime rate has increased in tandem with
the influx of foreign workers, both legal and illegal. It
has also increased with the increase in the huge cost of
living that is not matched by wages increase.
It is widely accepted that the underlying
motivation for commercial crime is financial ‘reward’.
Financial ‘reward’ is either driven by greed or economic
necessity. MTUC believes that for a large number of
commercial crimes, the main driver is economic necessity.
people are to risk their lives to cut through ‘live’
electric cables to sell on for RM1 a kilo, than it is
reasonable to argue that it is economic necessity that drove
them to resort to such crime, just like stealing a mobile
phone to sell on at RM30 or a motor bike at RM300.
The long-term solution is to ensure that
Malaysians have decent jobs with reasonable pay. And
that there are no more foreign workers. We note that the
government now wants to do away with foreign workers as
their numbers both legal and illegal have reached three
Other examples of employers’ and government actions:
The government must
realise that employers employ foreign workers not
because Malaysians shun such jobs, but because employers
through their economic might and close links with the
government have managed to (in the dubious excuse of
having to be competitive) suppress wages.
As a result, locals either leave Sarawak for jobs
else where (or turn to crime) hence opening the door for
RM12 a day (according to the Sarawak Timber Association)
A case in point is when the timber industry managed
to convince the BN government to grant exemption to them
so that basic protections as provided under the amended
labour laws is denied to workers in non-urban (meaning
almost all areas) in Sarawak.
• Opposition to minimum wages.
• Opposition to a national retrenchment scheme.
• Making it extremely difficult for trade unions to operate and
obtain recognition and prohibiting executives from joining unions.
• Imposing 24 months cap on back wages for workers who are dismissed
without just cause of excuse.
• Opposition to increasing the retirement age (which will reduce
reliance on foreign workers).
All these will ultimately result in the distortion
of workers’ bargaining power which is now skewed heavily in favour
of employers to ultimately drive down wages and kept profits up.
Now every Malaysian is paying the price in terms
of the high crime rate. Of course, the rich billionaires will be
protected in their heavily-fortified mansions or holiday homes
We therefore urge the government to be serious and
change our policy of being a low-wage country and restructure
employment laws to create decent and productive jobs. There is no
point to spend billions to produce graduates when they earn less
than RM1,000 when they enter the job market.
An immediate benefit to the country is that higher
wages will lead to higher purchasing power which in turn will lead
to increase domestic demand. MTUC therefore agrees with Senator
Amirsham that the government plans to implement increase in wages
through productivity improvement and restructuring employment rules
However, we must remember that employers will not
invest in productivity improvement simply because it will be cheaper
for them to continue to pay RM12 a day for foreign labour rather
than invest in modern equipment, production processes and better
human resources management. It must be noted that spending on
Research and Development by the private sector in Malaysia is
The Malaysian Employers Federation’s view on
productivity improvement is simplistic - the more a worker produces,
the more he is paid. Question is, how do you expect a rubber taper
to produce more if he still uses the same tool his grandfather used?
Countries with the highest workers’ productivity
and the world’s most productive nations are in Europe - are all high
wage countries with a minimum wage policy in place and are heavily
unionised. Even Singapore has a higher productivity than us, despite
Just compare Changi airport in Singapore where
Singaporeans in their late fifties and early sixties are efficiently
maintaining the airport, while KLIA is flooded with Bangladeshis.
We expect all employers to jump on us for our
views as they only care about their member companies’ profits. We
urge all loyal Malaysians to judge for themselves whether or not our
views have more than a ring of truth to it. Our views may be
difficult to swallow for employers but are hard facts nonetheless.
The writer is secretary, MTUC Sarawak.
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