Sabah Needs Own Ministry For Hr Issues Says Employers Association
Sabah Employers Association (SEA) president Yap Cheen Boon.
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah needs a dedicated state ministry to oversee issues involving human resources, says Sabah Employers Association president Yap Cheen Boon.
Commenting on a statement by state Labour Department director Wan Zulkifli Wan Setapa on the minimum wage recently, Yap said the association was of the view that employers must abide by applicable laws.
He added that the recent action taken by the enforcement agencies against non-compliant companies was justified, as what was done protects workers' benefits and ensures an equal playing field for other employees studiously bearing statutory costs.
“Despite punitive measures abound to ward off flouting of the laws, there are still some employers that continue to do so and have exposed underlying circumstances in need of attention,” said Yap.
He also said that Sabah needs its own ministry to deal with human resources as it has its own unique circumstances requiring special attention.
“The most glaring shortfall is a lack of a dedicated Sabah Human Resource Ministry for the purposes of raising awareness amongst businesses of compliance,” he said, when asked for his views on Wan Zulkifli’s remarks.
Yap added that the dedicated ministry would also serve as a platform for educating and monitoring while continuously gathering feedback from the ground on the state's evolving labour issues with policy implications.
Wan Zulkifli had on Wednesday (March 8) said many employers in Sabah have yet to implement the RM1,500 minimum wage that came into effect in May last year.
He said that this, among other offences, was detected during a two-day integrated operation to check whether employers were conforming to the relevant laws.
Wan Zulkifli had also said that the salaries of employees were being cut without getting permission from its director, adding many employers were also not paying overtime or underpaid overtime wages for their workers.
On the two-day enforcement operation, Wan Zulkifli said that it was aimed at getting employers to comply with the laws and was not punitive in nature, although action will be taken against them if they did not comply with the law within 14 days.
On this, Yap said the Sabah government could do better than just relying on federal agencies like the Labour Department for monitoring and enforcement.
He then said that this is because the labour challenges faced by businesses in the state must be understood and tackled by truly local Sabah agencies with local knowledge, without which flouting of labour laws will continue to happen.
“Non-compliance should not be taken lightly. On the same token, the reasons leading to non-compliance should be fully resolved – not all employers are recalcitrant with bad intentions,” he said.
He said that there were 33,900 businesses in Sabah employing people in 2021 compared to 51,200 in 2018, adding that despite this the state still remained the nation's second-largest employer of workers to date at 1.9mil.
Yap said that issues related to this included a restricted market size, the absence of connectivity to expand business beyond borders, low worker productivity and the heavy imposition of federal-centric laws that are a burden.
He added that these issues require proactive action from the state government, saying that a dedicated ministry in the state will serve as an informed mediator between Sabah employers and workers for workable solutions.
“This must be done before things spiral downwards further,” he said. - Star
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