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Wednesday February 7

Monthly wage set too little, say NGOs
Leong Kar Yen and Susan Loone

7:38pm, Wed: The agreement to provide monthly wages for oil palm plantation workers was welcomed by a number of organisations but they said the minimum rate offered was way too low for estate workers to sustain their livelihoods.

"We welcome the move to initiate monthly wages for plantation workers but the proposed RM325 minimum monthly wage is not enough to sustain a decent lifestyle for the workers," said Suaram coordinator S Arutchelvan.

Arutchelvan, who has worked extensively with estate workers, told malaysiakini in an immediate reaction today that the ideal wage should have been set at RM750.

Estate workers have struggled to obtain monthly wages for over half a century.

Human Resources Minister Fong Chan Onn announced today the creation of a monthly guaranteed wage at his ministry after the signing of an agreement between the National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW) and Malaysia Agricultural Producers Association (Mapa). Traditionally, estate workers have been paid only for the days they worked. They are not paid on days when bad weather forces them to lay off.

Court case

Estate Workers Support Group (EWSG) coordinator Letchimi Dewi also welcomed the move but with trepidation.

"It is good that at last the workers have achieved a monthly wage but the minimum RM325 is too little. The monthly wage we are seeking should be around RM750," she said.

EWSG had earlier issued a statement that it would stage a 200-strong peaceful gathering in front of the Industrial Court
tomorrow in Kuala Lumpur to protest against "the attitudes of certain parties in purposefully toying with the issue of monthly wages using empty promises".

The Industrial Court is due to hear the monthly-wage dispute between NUPW and Mapa tomorrow in Kuala Lumpur. With the deal signed today, representatives from both parties will now apply for a consent award from the court.

When asked if the gathering was to continue, Letchimi said that her organisation would make a decision at a meeting tonight.

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