by P PREM KUMAR & ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By TMR
About 200 people marched towards the Parliament yesterday to protest against Putrajaya’s proposed RM50 minimum wage increase.
The protestors, largely from trade unions, claimed that the increase to RM1,050 a month was too low.
The protesters’ march was halted 50m from the main Parliament gate by the Royal Malaysia Police Light Strike Force. The Parliament’s main gate was also locked and manned by the police.
The march was organised by the Malaysian Trade Union Congress, Parti Sosialis Malaysia and National Union of Bank Employees. The protesters who called themselves Bantah 1050, began their march from Padang Merbok in the city.
A minor scuffle broke out when the police tried to prevent several protesters from continuing their march. But they pushed through the police blocks and came within 50m of Parliament’s gates. The protesters wanted to hand over a memorandum to Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran (picture).
Tempers, however, cooled when Kulasegaran appeared at about 10.50am and personally invited 20 leaders of the protesters into the Parliament.
Kulasegaran said the workers’ demand for a review of the RM1,050 minimum wage would be presented to the Cabinet.
“I understand your predicament. I agree that under the Cabinet, there will be a review,” he said.
The minister said the hike for Peninsular Malaysia had to be minimal due to the current economic slowdown and the national debt incurred under the previous Barisan Nasional administration.
“Among the promises we made was to subsidise employers 50% of any minimum wage hike. However, we cannot subsidise them now because of the financial constraint.
“At the same time, even with a 5% increase in Peninsular Malaysia and 14% in Sabah and Sarawak, the employers still demanded a 50% subsidy.
“However, there’s no increment on subsidies. We must also give time to employers to adjust and I promise you we will play the catch up game and make it to RM1,500 while we are in term,” the minister said.