Unions want 50 per cent pay increment
By Puvaneswary Devindran
KUCHING: Unions in Malaysia have no choice but demand for a salary increase of at least 50 per cent, said the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak Division yesterday. It said in a press statement that the fuel increase would surely lead to another round of price increase on anything and everything from taxi fares to bus fares, from cooking oil to a packet of nasi lemak.
“Our experience points to the fact that in Malaysia, price increases in commodities and basic items always benefited businesses, not ordinary workers. A classic example is when the price of sugar increased by 10 sen a kilo, a cup of kopi also increased by 10 sen - as if you need a kilo of sugar to make a cup of kopi,” said MTUC Sarawak secretary Andrew Lo. As a result, ordinary Malaysians simply cannot afford to pay the market price for petrol, he said.
He claimed that already the prices of cars and toll (due to one-sided deals signed with toll concessionaires) were among the highest in the world, while public transport remained hopeless in cities and non-existent in rural areas.
“People have no choice but to own cars. Many owners have to take a one-year loan just to pay off a basic car, with their car value less than the outstanding loan. This is a result of economic mismanagement that has marginalised the poor, created billionaires and income disparity that is the second highest in Asia, behind only Papua New Guinea,” he said.
Lo, who is also the CEO of Sarawak Bank Employees Union, said contrary to government claims, petrol was actually cheaper in Singapore, Japan or even the US after taking into account one of the fundamental principles when comparing prices across different countries - purchasing power parity. He said simply put, Singaporeans still pay much less for their petrol because Singaporean workers earn Singapore dollars and not Malaysian ringgit.
He said even in absolute terms, for example, a typical clerical employee in Singapore earns S$1,200 per month compared to RM900 in Malaysia and RM600 in Sarawak plus Singaporeans only pay about S$2 per litre.
“Per capital income of Singapore is RM100,000. Malaysia is only RM20,000. Singapore does not produce a drop of its own crude oil,” he added.
He said even in Japan and the US, one would find petrol prices relatively cheaper and that minimum wage in the US was about US$4 per hour and a high school teacher makes at least US$40,000.
He said petrol price in the US was only about US$1.20 per litre. He questioned why the production cost plus distribution cost plus profit amounts to 20 per cent of the pump price. He said MTUC called on the government to give a full transparent and detailed disclosure of the fuel subsidy as well as the profits of Petronas, independent power producers and other oil companies, oil palm and timber companies every year.
He claimed that the government had ‘forced’ the public to own cars by mismanaging the public transport sector, inflicted a high price on cars, burdened motorists with extensive toll roads, suppressed wages and now wanted to be paid market price on petrol.