LETTER | MTUC notes that the government is finally acknowledging the fact that reliance on foreign workers has deprived the locals of being paid RM2,700 as a minimum wage.
We are also surprised that it took more than 20 years for the government to realise – only in April 2018 - the fact that Malaysian workers are deprived of a living wage due to the huge dependency on foreign workers.
What happened to all the numerous calls by the unions voicing out the wage depreciation due to the influx of foreign worker? What steps did the government take to curb the inflow of foreign workers since the 1980s?
And in addition to the misery caused to Malaysian workers, just three years ago the government made an announcement to bring in another 1.5 million foreign workers.
Again, what action did the government take when unions voiced about the exploitation of foreign workers? It only fell on the deaf ears of the related ministries.
The government cannot blame anyone but themselves for the problems caused by excess foreign workers. This influx of foreign workers has caused extreme depression to Malaysians in the B40 and M40 category whose right to job opportunities and a decent livelihood were robbed from them for the last 20 years.
Despite being the underlying cause of the influx of foreign workers, we are surprised that the government is now turning around and asking businesses to be automated and begin using artificial intelligence in order to ensure the minimum wage is paid for Malaysians to live decently. Is it a case of too little, too late or misdirected attention again?
MTUC welcomes technology but unfortunately, the emphasis of technology is not directed to the labour intense sectors where there is high dependency for foreign workers but rather in service sectors where there are a large number of Malaysians working.
The government and the employers from the service sectors are aggressively using technology to the extent of laying off Malaysians who have served them for many years and replacing Malaysian graduates with foreign graduates without giving any opportunities for these Malaysian workers to prosper.
Making the situation worsen, the service sector is even getting rid of Malaysian workers and opting for automation and artificial intelligence merely to compete with the western world, under the guise of remaining competent.
The service sector is in the position to set an example by introducing the RM2,700 as recommended by the Bank Negara Malaysia as most service providers are profiting in the billions, not millions. But unfortunately, the wealth is not shared equitably.
If the Second Minister of Finance wishes to do justice to Malaysians he must first ensure the banks and the GLCs under his ministry be exemplary in providing the minimum living wage of RM2,700 to their workers as automation and technology have already been a part of the banking scene since the 1980s.
The need to reduce foreign workers in banks in order to enjoy the BNM recommended minimum wage does not arise as there are no foreign workers in banks.
The sooner the authorities wake up and deal with the real issue instead of throwing ‘red herrings’, the better off the nation will be for it.
The writer is secretary-general, MTUC.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.