Tuesday, August 9

MTUC Sarawak dismayed by agreement’s suspension

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KUCHING: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak division is dismayed that the 11 countries of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) have agreed to suspend a labour chapter.

According to MTUC Sarawak secretary Andrew Lo, CPTPP will incorporate the original Trans- Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) with the suspension of a limited number of provisions that were part of the original TPPA.

CPTPP is the new name assigned to the TPPA following the withdrawal of the United States.

“Alarmingly, among the list of suspended provision is Article 15.8.5 on commitments relating to labour rights. MTUC is aghast that the 11 countries of CPTPP have agreed to suspend this fundamental commitment relating to labour rights,” he said at the division’s ‘Solidarity Night’ on Thursday.

The 11 countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

According to Lo, a labour chapter is needed to ensure a sustainable, fair and inclusive free trade agreement.

He said MTUC had supported TPPA principally because Malaysia would, for the first time, has a free trade agreement that had a labour chapter requiring the country to integrate the principles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Declaration of 1998 into its laws.

Lo said such a labour chapter would lead to significant improvements in labour standards, especially on freedom of association, right to collective bargaining, minimum wage, and elimination of child labour.

“Our current law relating to trade unions is stifling and draconic and severely limits the effectiveness of the trade union movement in the country.

“As a result, only 2 per cent of private workers are members of trade unions. Wages constitute only 32 per cent of the GDP (gross domestic product) and have fallen way below productivity growth,” he claimed.

According to him, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and businesses in Malaysia are not competitive because they rely on low wages, low costs, and are labour intensive, thereby leading to low innovation business models with millions of foreign workers.

“It is with this in mind that the 12 countries of the TPPA negotiations had included a labour chapter that requires the countries to integrate the ILO Declaration of 1998 in the law of each country.

“We call on the government to ensure that Malaysia does not suspend our commitment to enhance labour standards,” he added.