KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 — Over a thousand workers marched across the city centre this morning in protest against the newly announced minimum wage policy and calling for basic employee rights.
The annual Labour Day rally, mostly comprising participants from the National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE), began marching from Central Market at 10am towards Dataran Maybank.
Chants of "Stop union busting!" and "we want fair pay, RM1500!" could be heard over the steady beating of drums as the group blocked traffic along Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock.
Meanwhile, scores of policemen watched from across the road, with some snapping pictures of the peaceful procession, days after the violent crackdown on tens of thousands Of Bersih protesters in the same area.
The atmosphere today was made more festive at Dataran Maybank, where they were greeted with a Bhangra performance by NUBE members and student activists.
"The RM900 minimum wage is not enough! It should be RM1500," Koyilvani, chairman of the Guppy Plastic Industries Workers Union said to the enthusiastic crowd at Dataran Maybank.
"The price of products is rising, while the poverty line is RM750. That's only RM150 difference," she added.
Samad Shukri Mohamad, a representative of Suaram, also maintained that they would not stop demanding changes to the policy until the minimum wage is changed to RM1500.
Meanwhile, NUBE Secretary-General J Solomon said that this rally was a message to employers as well as officers in the human resource ministry.
"Do not attempt to erode workers' rights. Human Resource Minister Datuk S Subramaniam thinks he can tear workers apart by plotting with Maybank to destroy NUBE. That is unacceptable," he said.
The speeches by organisation leaders were interspersed with a street play on the history of May day.
Also at the rally were Occupy Dataran activists, Parti Socialis Malaysia, and Women's Aid Organisation.
The rally ended with NUBE members picketing against Maybank and calling for a boycott against the bank, before finally dispersing at 12.30pm.