Two hotel workers attend to a guest. The National Union of Hotel, Bar and Restaurant Workers is pressing for its members to be paid ‘clean’ minimum wages. ― Malay Mail pic
PETALING JAYA, April 24 — A battle is being waged by the National Union of Hotel, Bar and Restaurant Workers to ensure employees are paid “clean” minimum wages as some employers are using service charge to make up the numbers.
Its secretary-general, Rusli Affandi, said the union had 25 such cases pending in the Industrial Court.
“Some hotels are using the service charge to make up the RM900 (minimum wage). This is not right,” he said.
“Some staff earn less than RM350 a month. While it’s good the service charge can stay, we need to stop the misuse of minimum wage guidelines.”
The minimum wage in Peninsular Malaysia is RM900 while it is RM800 in Sabah and Sarawak.
The Minimum Wage Order 2012 came into effect on Jan 1, 2013, although some hotels applied for a deferral to only enforce it in October 2013.
According to the guidelines issued by the National Wages Consultative Council, hotels may be allowed to “convert all or part of the service charge” to make up the minimum wage.
Rusli said the preface of the guidelines also stated this was subject to negotiation between employers and employees.
“Instead, what we found was some hotels just decided to use these guidelines as the rule of thumb without informing the workers,” he said.
“They need to talk to the workers first. If the workers agree with the service charge being part of their basic pay, then it’s a different story.”
He brought up the landmark judgment at the Industrial Court last year involving a dispute between Crystal Crown Hotel and Resort Sdn Bhd and the union.
On July 18, the Industrial Court ruled an employee should be paid the minimum wage as stipulated by the Minimum Wage Act, on top of the service charge.
“The case has now been brought to the High Court and we’re waiting for its decision,” said Rusli.
He said the service charge was also about “cooks and other back-line workers you don’t see”.
Malaysian Trade Union Congress secretary-general N. Gopal Krishnam said the situation may be worse for employees who were not unionised.
“The monthly EPF (Employees Provident Fund) contributions of workers in this line show just how low their basic pay is,” he said.
“There are even other businesses in the private sector which are trying to do this, using allowances aside from the basic pay to make up the RM900. This is why unions are important, because it is hard for individual workers to challenge this sort of unfairness.”