KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 1 ― MCA today denied claims by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) that the Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Chinese party was discriminating against the working class with its demands against foreign workers.
MTUC had yesterday criticised the political party for pushing for the levy as well as transportation and housing allowances to be borne by foreign workers, which Malaysia’s largest labour group said was discriminatory.
“MCA strongly disagrees with the allegation by MTUC that MCA only speaks for the wealthy,” MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said in a statement.
Dr Chua stressed that MCA supports the implementation of minimum wage, but confirmed that they are proposing the levy and transportation as well as housing allowance to be borne by foreign workers.
He also stressed that their proposal did not apply to local workers, in a bid to ensure that foreign labourers did not earn more than their local counterparts after the implementation of minimum wage.
MCA insisted that paying the allowances together with minimum wage might also cause small-and-medium enterprise (SME) owners to fold, thereby causing employees to lose their jobs.
In a separate press conference today, Dr Chua clarified that it is up to employers to negotiate with their foreign workers that the allowances should be included in their RM900 minimum wage.
“The government does not have to decide. It is up for the employer to interpret the wage,” he said.
He added this, however, should just apply to new workers instead of those who have already signed their contracts.
Dr Chua also blasted employers who complained that they did not have enough time to prepare for the implementation of the minimum wage, since the government has discussed the issue for two years ago.
On Tuesday, more than 100 members of business associations protested against the RM900 minimum wage for foreign workers.
Calling themselves the Minimum Wages Implementation Steering Committee, the members from 57 associations across Malaysia gathered near the Human Resource Ministry in Putrajaya.
The mostly-Chinese crowd insisted that they are not against the implementation of a minimum wage, but it should only be for Malaysians and should not include foreign workers.
MTUC had lashed out yesterday at the administration for reinstating a 21-year-old levy on foreign workers, a policy it said discriminates against migrant workers and said it will file an official complaint on the move with the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The levy for foreign workers was introduced in 1992 and had been fully paid by the workers until 2009 when the government decided to shift the burden to employers in a bid to stem the flood of foreign labour pouring into the country then.
Malaysia’s workforce is about 13-million strong and over four million foreigners are holding jobs here, The Star Online news portal reported yesterday.
The bulk of foreign workers in Malaysia are employed in unskilled jobs such as in the construction and plantation sectors, which are shunned by locals, many whom prefer white-collar positions in line with the government’s pursuit of transforming the nation into a knowledge-based economy and leap into the ranks of the high-income countries.