KOTA KINABALU: No companies, or coffee shops for that matter, have closed shop due to losses over the years.
So, for that matter, Sabah Malaysian Trades Union Congress (Sabah MTUC) honorary secretary Catherine Jikunan said there was no reason why employers could not afford to pay their workers the RM800 minimum wage for Sabah.
“I believe employers have been making money all these years. For instance, hotel owners have been saying that they could not afford the minimum wage, but every now and then, they would carry out major renovations for their hotels — so where is the justification?
“I believe these renovation works are possible because the hotels are making money, so it is unfair to say that they cannot afford to pay RM800 for their staff when they are among the contributors to the successful financial growth of the said hotels,” she said, sharing an example when contacted by The Borneo Post, yesterday.
She also described the requests by traders and chambers to the government to review the implementation of the minimum wage which took effect on Jan 1 as ‘unfair’ as it was about time for the workers in the country to enjoy the ‘fruits of their labour’, especially with the high cost of living today.
“The minimum wage for Sabahan workers is RM100 lower than their counterparts in West Malaysia despite our high cost of living.
“Currently, most employees, such as those working in coffee shops, sundry shops, security guards or maids are getting between RM200 to RM500 monthly. They have to pay for their room or house rent, transportation and food. And for those with families, the expenses are higher — I do not think they can support their family, or even their own needs with such low salaries,” she said.
Jikunan added that Sabah MTUC had conducted talks with the employers in the state to identify problems faced by the employers and their workers.
“Most of them often compared foreign workers and the locals, saying that Sabahans were choosy and lazy people.
“I believe that Sabahans are not choosy when it comes to work. But they are demoralised when offered such low salaries. They rather stay in the village as they earn more when they tap rubber or plant paddy.
“Plus, I have been receiving positive comments from West Malaysian employers that Sabahans are, in fact, good and hardworking employees.
“So if employers can offer adequate salary and benefits, I am sure Sabahans are willing to stay and work here, thus reducing our dependencies on foreign workers,” she said.
She said foreign workers were willing to work for low salaries because of the different currency factors. For instance, when a Filipino or Indonesian worker sends money to their families back home, it could come up to millions, unlike Sabahans who live in the same currency nation.
“Employers keep telling us that they are not ready to implement the minimum wage, so when are they ever ready? They need a few years more to make huge profit before sharing it with their employees? I cannot understand why bosses are so adamant, they cannot continue exploiting the workers.
“Even now, consumers are feeling the pinch, as some have started increasing prices, blaming the government’s move to implement the minimum wage.
“If employers are still adamant, I believe the government has to interfere and sit down with the employers and make sure that workers earn what they deserve,” she said.