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RM1,500 as minimum monthly wage is fair

I refer to the article Pakatan rejects RM1,500 wage proposal in FMT (news portal Free Malaysia Today) and would like to reiterate that asking for a wage of RM1,500 a month is not outrageous nor it is without basis.

Asking RM1,500 for every worker is a decent wage proposal and decent wages are part and parcel of human rights.

Outrageous or impractical would be the pay of Maybank CEO which is RM90,000 a month or the Syabas CEO who earns RM450,000 a month.

Today we do not question the massive income inequality and discrimination when it comes to the rich and powerful.

The highest 20 percent of Malaysian earn 51% of the total income whereas the bottom 40% earn merely 14%.

The poorest 10% only control 1.7% of the total income. But we question why should the lowest 20% be paid RM1,500 and give that as the reason why the economy is going to collapse.

The Malaysian income per capita is RM28,000 annually which works out to be RM2,300 per month. This means if we take the average household size in Malaysia, a household in peninsular should be getting RM10,100 a month and in Sabah and Sarawak RM11,500 a month and RM10,800 respectively.

So the argument should not be about the minimum wage for the lower income group but rather how to distribute income evenly and equally.

Every human being is entitled to a decent wage, decent home life and good medical care.

If every politician can take home pay of RM900 or RM1100 a month for themselves and their family members, then I will not question the need for a RM1500 salary.

The problem is we ourselves cannot accept RM900 or RM1,100 as a just salary but why do we then propose it for others? Isn't this hypocritical? Isn't this a case of double standards?

PKR director of strategy Rafizi Ramli's statement that a World Bank's report says the implementation of a minimum wage beyond RM1,100 would have an adverse impact on industries.

This statement goes against another fellow Pakatan economist Charles Santiago who says that the minimum wage should be set at around RM1500 or RM2,000.

Figures can be confusing and can be manipulated. The point is whether the wage taken home is fair and decent.

When we calculated what a decent living wage should be, it was based on food baskets and basic needs of an average individual and a family. It was based on real needs.

That is how we came out with the figure RM1500. For us it would have been indecent to be paid lower than that.

Under the capitalist system, the life of the system lies in profit. Profit can only be extracted from the surplus value of labour.

Capitalists use all sorts of argument to suppress wages. After every cycle, the rich end up richer and the poor end up poorer.

The rich companies employ consultants and spend millions on researchers on why wages must be kept low.

In the case of Malaysia, we have more demand for workers then supply. That is why we employ foreign labour.

If that is true, the larger demand of workers should mean that wages would rise. But the reality is that there is no invisible hand to increase wages, rather, the opposite happens.

Then the human resource mInister makes a revelation that he does not understand why market forces do not work in Malaysia and goes on to say that is the reason why a minimum wage is being implemented now.

It would just take logic for us to understand that wages are being suppressed and foreign labour is a form of cheap labour to keep wages low.

The invisible hand theory has in fact made wage increases invisible.

So free market economic theory does not work because it is controlled by the 1%.

Pakatan can actually play a part in uplifting the living standard of workers. Malaysia has the highest income gap disparity in South East Asia and one of the highest in Asia.

Every national budget in recent years shows this being a trend. It is the role of the government to act, intervene and ensure wealth is equally distributed.

PSM believes that if corporate taxes are increased, the economy would be able to subsidise wages for smaller and medium scale companies.

Pakatan has previously argued that good governance can save money. This is the money which should be used to help small and medium scale industries pay decent wages.

Decent wages for the poor will help boost the economy. When workers earn more, it will help stimulate the economy and will bring much benefit to traders and businesses catering to the lower income group.

This will benefit a huge level of the lower strata economy and boost income to the lower income group.

This will help the real economy and assist the real people. Rich people tend to gamble their money in fictitious markets rather than the real one.

My argument is that if the Selangor government can implement a minimum wage of RM1,500 for all its GLCs using a newly set-up Selangorku grant totalling RM300 million, I don't see why Pakatan, when it takes over the federal government, cannot assist small and medium scale industries in implementing this minimum wage act.

The annual budget of the Selangor government is only RM1.5 billion yet they can give a minimum wage to all their GLCs amounting to RM1500 and using RM300 million.

Please compare this to the federal government which has a budget of around RM200 billion.

If PR can stop or prevent leakages like in the PKFZ scandal (RM12 billion), commission for submarines  (RM500 million), Terengganu stadium collapse (RM292 million), MRR2 repair costs (RM70 million), APs given out in a year (RM1.8 billion), Perwaja Steel losses (RM2.56 billion), National Astronaut Programme (RM40 million), compensation amounting to RM38.5 billion to 20 highway companies in 2006, Putra transport system bailout which cost RM4.5 billion, STAR-LRT bailout costing RM3.3 billion and RM17 billion subsidy to IPP and many more, the money will be there.

It is estimated that RM10 to RM28 billion is lost annually because of corruption. This money needs to be redistributed.

In the final analysis, the capitalist economy, its neo liberal policies, its foreign direct investments and free trade agreement inspired businesses will continue to ensure that workers will be paid lower.

Profit will always be held above people.

The working class, the trade unions and the 99% on the poorer side of the fence have to keep fighting this class war to ensure they live a better life.

Pakatan and BN have to decide whose side they want to be on - people or profit?



S Arutchelvan is secretary general of Parti Socialis Malaysia.