Friday, June 17, 2011

Star and NUJ sign new CA

PETALING JAYA: Star Publications (M) Bhd and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ)-The Star branch have signed the 11th Collective Agreement (CA), touted to be one of the best in recent years.

The three-year CA, effective Feb 1 last year, will see a 13% salary increase in basic salary across the board, an increase in book allowance to RM400 a year and a RM430 monthly allowance for sub-editors.

Maternity leave for first-time mothers is now 75 days.

Present at the signing ceremony were Star group managing director and chief executive officer Datin Linda Ngiam, executive director and chief operating officer Ho Kay Tat, NUJ president Chin Sung Chew, NUJ general-secretary V. Anbalagan, Star NUJ chairman Teh Eng Hock and Star NUJ secretary Lisa Goh.

In her speech, Ngiam lauded the NUJ team for “bringing a lot of maturity to the table” during the negotiation process despite still being in their 20s.

“There was sincerity on both sides. It was not about fighting to see who wins and who loses. After all, we are all one family,” she said, adding she was glad the CA was finally signed before her retirement.

Ngiam advised those in the industry to keep abreast with changing technology to remain relevant.

“Changes are here to stay. All employees must be in the forefront of these changes,” she added.

Teh said they started negotiations in November.

Overtime claims increased by RM15, half-day subsistence allowance increased from RM25 to RM33 and full-day subsistence allowance increased from RM50 to RM65, he said.

“For assignments that take more than 10 hours including travel time, unionised journalists can claim full-day subsistence even if we do not stay overnight,” said Teh, adding that transport allowance had also increased by RM15.

Teh said mileage claim had been increased from 50 sen a kilometre to 55 sen a kilometre adding public transport allowance had also been increased to RM520 a month

Thursday, June 16, 2011

'MTUC has never been anti-government' - Malaysiakini

Jiwi Kathaiah
Jun 15, 11
The country's national trade union centre, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), has always been suspected of, as well as accused of, being anti-government by those in power and the coalition parties in the ruling front.

And they harp at every opportunity that MTUC should be politically neutral.

This charge that MTUC is anti-government emerged again, with greater vigour, from those challenging the incumbent leaders in the MTUC elections held in December last year.

The team led by Timber Employees Union leader Mohd Khalid Atan defeated the incumbent president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud, who was accused of being an active member of PKR, and captured the leadership.

Khalid campaigned on grounds to "unite the (trade union) movement, change the perception of MTUC as being anti-government and to be politically neutral".

He and his running mates in the election capitalised on the alleged "perception" that MTUC was anti-government, a perception that was assiduously promoted by employers, leaders of the BN coalition parties and even by some of the pro-BN trade union leaders.

During the Hulu Selangor by-election MIC deputy president and Human Resources Minister Dr S Subramaniam accused MTUC of having lost its "neutrality".

Never anti-government

It is now almost six months since the new MTUC leadership assumed office. What do the new leaders think of MTUC being anti-government?

With the elections over, the new secretary-general Abdul Halim Mansor, an important member of Khalid's team seemed to draw a distinction between the involvement of MTUC as an organisation of workers and its leaders as individuals in politics.

"MTUC has never ever been anti-government," Halim told Malaysiakini in a recent interview, and dismissed as wrong accusations that the federation is politically aligned.

"MTUC has never ever aligned with any political party. Zainal Rampak's (a former MTUC president) decision to join Umno was not MTUC's decision. It has been so all the time, notwithstanding the fact that individuals had joined political parties. The accusation is not correct."

Swimming with the current

Stressing the reasons for MTUC being apolitical, Halim said past leaderships had been trying hard to achieve the objectives of trade union struggles but "we found it a bit hard to reach the destination".

"We believe we have struggled very hard on many platforms. We used to campaign for the opposition. We worked with Syed Sharir in order to oust Zainal Rampak because Zainal had joined the BN. Syed was not in politics then. Now, he is a politician."

Believing that the struggles carried out all these years for the success of the workers' cause have not produced the results expected, Halim has come to the conclusion that it is better to swim with the current.

He said, "As the Malays say 'don't go against the current', we go non-political.

"What we mean by non-political is that we do not want to be directly engaged with any political party, whether it is the government party or the opposition.

"We are on different platforms. We do not want to say we are partners because we have lost confidence. It does not mean we work only with the government, no.

"I have said before that we are prepared to work with the government or anybody else to make sure we succeed in championing the cause of the workers."

Conceding that politics is part of every human activity, Halim added, "Even when you tackle your boyfriend or girlfriend, there is politics."

The formation of MTUC and the selection of its first leader itself was the result of a political decision. Both colonial Malaya and the independent Malayan/Malaysian governments had made sure that MTUC remained pro-government.

So, why should MTUC now declare itself to be politically neutral?

In 2008, Halim said, MTUC held a series of pickets and demonstrations in support of its struggles. At the end of the day, it was monopolised by the opposition and it appeared to be anti-government.

"I still believe in political neutrality. People say we are anti-government. We are not. Why are we now saying we are politically neutral?

"If we don't say it now, they will later say Khalid (MTUC president) is linked to BN," Halim added, justifying his preference for political neutrality.

However, he conceded that the authority to determine MTUC's political role rested with its general council and the delegates' conference.

"We don't even have the right to question any individual's right to be involved in politics. But the general council is the deciding authority to decide if the movement should take a political leaning."

Minimum wage: A sad story

Halim said MTUC had during the last 12 years submitted so many memoranda and staged public programmes in support of its claim for a minimum wage, but the government never responded seriously.

After the 2008 general election and even after the MTUC election, he said, Umno Youth approached the movement to find out what its minimum wage demand was about.

"It is a sad story that only after 12 years have passed did the Umno/BN Youth want to know about our minimum wage claim!

"Their move was initiated by the Umno labour bureau and then picked up by Umno Youth and widened into a BN Youth representation on this matter," Halim said.

After briefing the BN Youth as to what minimum wage was all about, a meeting with the deputy prime minister was held. This matter had been discussed with various departments and a decision was taken to set up a national wage council, Halim said.

A bill to set up the wage council was to have been tabled at the current sitting of Parliament but the information from some of the MPS was that there was no such matter in the order papers.

Dinner with PM
Perhaps, making a move again to swim with the current and to demonstrate that MTUC has never been anti-government, nor did it ever align with any particular political party, the federation hosted a dinner for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak at Grand Dorsett Subang Jaya last night.

Some 600 trade unionists and other guests attended.

Deputy president Mohd Jaffar Majid said MTUC had no clue as to what the prime minister would say in his speech at the dinner, but he is hopeful that Najib will make some important announcements, especially on the minimum wage.

Almost all the country's prime ministers - except for Dr Mahathir Mohamad who regarded trade unionists as untouchables and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who had no time for trade unions - have attended MTUC dinners and made promises, none of which were fulfilled.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NGOs, MTUC want minimum wage policy immediately


KUALA LUMPUR: Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), are demanding that a minimum wage policy of between RM1,200 and RM1,500 be enforced immediately.

Describing the Government's proposal to table a National Minimum Wage Consultative Act in the current session of the Dewan Rakyat as "a step backwards", Parti Sosialis Malaysia treasurer A. Selvarajan said a minimum wage policy should be immediately implemented instead.

"It appears to us that the set-up of a consultative council, just like the Wage Council 1947, will have no power to enforce a minimum wage policy.

"Instead, the council will only carry out studies before making recommendations to the Government on what is the line for a minimum wage.

"This, to us, only prolongs the process of enforcing the minimum wage policy," Selvarajan said before handing over a memorandum on the issue to several Opposition MPs at the Parliament lobby here Wednesday.

He said considering the current inflation rates, the minimum wage for workers must be not less than RM1,500.

Earlier, Selvarajan and about 50 members representing several NGOs held placards and gathered at Jalan Parlimen before they were denied entry by policemen.

MTUC vice-president Mohd Roszali Majid said the congress supported any parties that championed a minimum wage for workers.

The other NGOs supporting the memorandum included Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas, Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia and Suaram.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said at the MTUC Workers Day celebration dinner that the Act would be tabled in Parliament this session.

"Once the Act is approved, we will set up the council and then the minimum wage can be implemented, I hope, by the end of this year," Najib was reported saying in his speech;facebook

MTUC VP bemoans fruitless Najib dinner visit

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
June 15, 2011

Najib speaks during a dinner with the MTUC, June 14, 2011. — Picture by Choo Choy May
KUALA LUMPUR, June 15 — Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) vice-president Mohd Roszeli Majid has claimed that “nothing” was achieved in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s dinner with the trade union last night.

During last night’s dinner, the prime minister had promised that the government aims to implement a minimum wage by the end of 2011 once Parliament passes the National Wage Consultation Council Bill in the current June sitting.

Najib said that Cabinet was waiting for the Ministry of Human Resources to present the Bill before tabling it in Parliament.

“We want the minimum wage to be implemented immediately, not just more excuses,” Mohd Roszeli said today.

“There were many people who attended yesterday’s dinner, hoping that the government would do something about minimum wage, but we were sorely disappointed,”

“While we were eating last night, there were many other workers out there still starving,” Roszeli added.

Earlier today, the MTUC leader joined 100 protesters representing various workers organisations gathered outside Parliament to oppose the tabling of the National Wage Consultation Council Bill.

Workers rights group, Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (Jerit) and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), together with 11 other non-governmental organisation, led the demonstration that lasted for 30 minutes.

The groups want an enactment of a minimum wage instead of the National Consultation Council Act and sought for a basic worker’s salary to be at RM1,500.

The new Bill is to replace the Salary Determination Council Act 1947, and is expected to be tabled, debated and passed at this Parliament sitting.

Jerit co-ordinator M. Sivaranjani said the consultative council would not solve worker’s woes.

“The wage council has got neither the fangs nor the powers to coerce the employers to abide by their orders, nor to take any action against employers who are stubborn and refuse to pay accordingly,” she said.

The groups have sent a memorandum stating their demands to the office of the prime minister.

The Najib administration has targeted the implementation of a minimum wage policy for this year, but has faced resistance from employers who worry it will hamper business.

Protesters demand minimum wage

Tarani Palani
June 15, 2011

'Menteri kaya, tapi rakyat miskin' were among the slogans that reveberated outside the Parliament building this morning.

KUALA LUMPUR: Several NGOs today held a short protest outside the Parliament compound before handing over a memorandum demanding that the government stop stalling the implementation of minimum wage.

Workers’ rights group Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (Jerit) and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) led the protest, participated by some 100 NGO representatives against the National Wage Consultative Bill which was to be tabled at this Parliament sitting.

The protest, which lasted some 30 minutes, was held under the watchful eyes of some 50 policemen, including Light Strike Force personnel.

The protesters carried banners and shouted slogans such as, “Harga naik tapi gaji tak naik (price increases but wages do not increase)” and “Menteri kaya tapi rakyat miskin (ministers are rich but the people are poor).”

Several MPs, led by PSM’s Sungai Siput rep Dr Michael Jayakumar, accompanied about 10 representatives to enter Parliament to submit their memorandum.

‘No more excuses’

“We are very disappointed with the government. They have said that they will implement minimum wage but until today we don’t see anything. And now the government is more interested in having a consultative body,” PSM treasurer A Sivarajan told reporters.

“This consultative body has no enforcement power but only power to recommend. We have been fighting for this issue for the past 20 years. This consultative body is merely to stall the implementation of minimum wage,” he added.

The bill was to be tabled during this session but had not been included in the list to be debated.

Sivarajan insisted that the government should not even bother with such a body and drew a reference to the 1947 National Wage Council which he claimed was ineffective in establishing minimum wage.

He also said that they were wary of the amount that would be set as minimum wage as it might be too low.

Citing the case of security guards, the PSM leader said: “The minister of human resources himself conceded that RM720 was the general poverty level and that these guards were earning less than that. But he announced recently that they will be paid at least around RM550.”

“They will just talk politics and say that they have implemented minimum wage. But the actual amount is very little,” he said, stressing that an acceptable amount was one of their demands.

Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) vice-president for the private sector Mohd Roszeli Majid, who also attended the protest, said that although NGOs differed on the amount for minimum wage, they were all united for the struggle to establish minimum wage.

“No more rhetoric and no more political games. Just implement minimum wage,” he said.

The memorandum was handed to representatives of the Prime Minister’s Department, the Opposition Leader, Minister of Human Resources, Malaysian Parliamentary Caucus for Labour and Migrant Workers and the Backbenchers Club.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

37,000 pekerja Sime Darby Plantation naik gaji

KUALA LUMPUR – Seramai 37,000 pekerja ladang dan kilang kelapa sawit Sime Darby Plantation bakal menikmati kenaikan gaji sebanyak RM200 sebulan bermula 1 Julai ini.

Presiden dan Ketua Eksekutif Kumpulan Sime Darby Bhd., Datuk Mohd. Bakke Salleh berkata, ganjaran tersebut meliputi tambahan pendapatan sebanyak RM2,400 setahun bertujuan meningkatkan taraf hidup pekerja.

“Kebajikan pekerja-pekerja ladang sememangnya menjadi perhatian dan keutamaan dan ganjaran ini adalah tanda penghargaan kepada mereka yang selama ini menjadi tulang belakang operasi perladangan Sime Darby.

“Kami percaya dengan meningkatkan kualiti hidup mereka melalui gaji dan keistimewaan yang terbaik akan meningkatkan komitmen serta prestasi mereka,” katanya.

Beliau berkata demikian semasa mengumumkan pemberian ganjaran tersebut di Pusat Konvensyen Sime Darby di sini semalam.

Majlis tersebut turut dihadiri Menteri Sumber Manusia, Datuk S. Subramaniam dan Ketua Pegawai Operasi Sime Darby, Datuk Abd. Wahab Maskon.

Mohd. Bakke memberitahu, ketika ini 43 peratus atau kira-kira 16,000 daripada 37,000 pekerja ladang syarikat itu adalah rakyat tempatan yang menerima gaji minimum RM850 hingga RM900 sebulan tidak termasuk pelbagai elaun lain.

Sementara itu, Subramaniam menyarankan semua syarikat berkaitan kerajaan (GLC) dan juga majikan agar mengikut jejak langkah Sime Darby dalam meningkatkan gaji para pekerja supaya mereka menikmati kehidupan yang lebih baik.

Go for decent living wage policy

G Vinod
June 11, 2011

Compared to a minimum wage policy which is a short-term remedy, a decent living wage will ensure workers' wages are on par with current economic reality.

PETALING JAYA: A decent living wage policy should be the way forward for governments in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea to give workers better security.

Several trade activists from these countries said it was high time that the respective governments scrapped the minimum wage policy and implement the decent living wage policy.

At a roundtable conference here, they said that a decent living wage policy would help workers cope with the economic realities of their respective countries in real time.

Also present were Klang MP Charles Santiago and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S Arutchelvan.

The Philippine National Wages and Productivity Commission deputy executive director Patricia Hornilla said that a decent living wage has a more holistic approach in addressing workers’ needs compared to a minimum wage.

“A decent living wage will ensure a worker has funds for savings and investing in social security schemes,” said Hornilla.

She added that such a salary scheme would take into consideration the workers’ dependants such as their immediate family members.

However, Hornilla said it was important that all parties involved in implementing the policy – the government, employers and employees – come to a mutual understanding.

She said that the parties could come up with clear criteria on how the wages should be adjusted from time to time.

“This will help employers be prepared. It will also deter employees from having unrealistic expectations over their wage adjustments.”

She also said that employers should not argue about productivity when it came to addressing the basic needs of their workers.

“Productivity should only be taken into consideration when considering increments,” she said.

Lack of political will

Thailand’s Arom Pongpangan Foundation-Labour Resource Centre director Bundit Thanachaisethavut said that unlike a decent living wage, a minimum wage only served to protect those who were fresh in the workforce for a certain period of time.

“But a decent wage policy takes into consideration cost of living, skills upgrade and sustainability,” said Thanachaisethavut.

However, he said that the new policy could only materialise if the unions were strong.

Santiago agreed that a decent living wage scheme was the way to move forward in these current times.

“In many countries, the minimum wage is set even below the povery line. However, a decent living wage will ensure the worker has money for food, non-food items and savings,” he said.

Santiago said the new policy would automatically ensure the workers receive a wage above the poverty line.

Asked whether the unions would face opposition from employers over the new plan, the DAP MP said currently there was a lack of political will in addressing the workers’ wages.

However, he said that although initially employers might find it tough to implement the new wage policy, they would benefit in the long run.

“With higher purchasing power, people will have means to buy more goods which will eventually be beneficial to our economy due to higher domestic consumption,” Santiago said.

The government is set to table the National Wage Consultative Council Bill when Parliament begin its sitting on Monday.

Human Resources Minister Dr S Subramaniam said the council would be empowered to make recommendations on workers’ wages once the Bill is passed.

According to a World Bank report, about 34% of Malaysians earn wages below RM700, which is below the Malaysian poverty line benchmark of RM720.

Wage council should be autonomous

G Vinod
June 12, 2011

PETALING JAYA: The council under the proposed National Consultative Wages Council Bill should be the decision making body on workers’ wages, not the government.

Several opposition parties and NGOs came to this resolution yesterday, in the final phase of the roundtable conference at a hotel in Petaling Jaya.

Those in support of the resolution were Suaram, Tenaganita, Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM), DAP and PKR.

Also present at the conference yesterday were foreign delegates from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Klang MP Charles Santiago.

Human Resource Minister Dr S Subramaniam is set to table the National Wage Consultative Council Bill when Parliament begins its sitting on Monday.

He said the council would be empowered to make recommendations on workers’ wages once the Bill was passed

Santiago said the current bill, if passed, would only empower the council to make recommendations to the government on wage adjustments for workers.

“And the human resources minister will still have a final say on it,” he added.

Not only the council should be autonomous, Santiago also said that only labour movements, employers and independent individuals should be allowed to be members of the council.

He added that the independent individuals should be appointed to the council based on mutual consensus between the employers and workers.

“And these individuals should be those who are familiar with labour issues such as labour lawyers and labour academics, not some retired civil servants or those still in service,” he said.

Touching on the decent living wage policy, the DAP leader said that small and medium enterprises (SME) could be exempted from the policy at least for a certain period of time.

“The government can allow them some time lapse until they are financially sound to implement the policy. But for some very small businesses, we can exempt them from it,” he said.

On June 11, the delegates called upon Asean governments to scrap the minimum wage policy and introduce the decent living wage policy for workers.

Unlike the minimum wage policy which normally sets the wage benchmark below the poverty line, the decent living wage policy would take into consideration the living needs of a worker, such as funds for food and non-food, savings and their immediate family members.