KUCHING: The freedom for unions to strike will not cause companies to go bankrupt and economies to fall but will improve companies’ management and drive the economy forward.
This is the view of MTUC (Malaysian Trades Union Congress) Sarawak which is advocating amendments to the Malaysian Labour Law, a mandatory requisite if the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) were to be ratified.
In expressing this view, MTUC Sarawak secretary Andrew Lo said Malaysian Labour Law was below standard, pointing out that its major flaw is the restriction for employees to join unions of other industries/trades/establishments/occupations and the restriction for employees to strike.
Citing countries such as South Korea and Australia as examples, Lo said countries with strong unions and the freedom to strike would not make companies or countries bankrupt.
“Strike does not make a company bankrupt. Actually, it makes the management better and the company more productive as well as more transparent as unions are good whistleblowers. Look at countries such as Australia and South Korea, they have unions and they are much better-off than us at anytime.
“Since the formation of Malaysia, there only one strike in Malaysia. It happened in 1962 when 9,000 railway workers went on strike to demand conversion of daily wages into monthly salaries. Yes, Malaysia is peaceful with no strike. But look at our economy. Are we doing better than South Korea and Australia?” Lo told The Borneo Post on Monday.
He said even for local companies with strong unions such as Telecom or banks, they had been performing well and were productive.
“The government knew and therefore it is willing to have a Labour Chapter. The government knew that if we are not going to change, the workers will not earn more. And if the workers are not earning more, their purchasing power will remain low.
“Malaysia has wanted to increase domestic demand. How are we going to increase domestic demand when the workers are not properly paid? To increase our domestic demand, we have to pay our workers better. And this can be done through empowering the unions,” stressed Lo.
Upon analysis, Lo said he strongly believed that there was a high chance for TPPA to be ratified despite Donald Trump winning the US presidential election. As such, he said it would be mandatory for Malaysia to make necessary amendments to the Labour Law.
He further said amendments were inevitable because it was a requisite to participatory nations of TPPA to have a Labour Law that is governed by core labour standards set by the International Labour Organisation.
“Presently, a person working in banking can only join the bank union and not other unions such as journalist union. That is why there are about 800 unions in Malaysia, but the membership for each union is always small, between 50 and 200.
“With such a small number, unions cannot be effective. With amendments to our Labour Law, anyone can join any union they want. With unions having a big number, then they can be more effective.”
He said another major amendment is to allow unions to strike.
“Quoting the words of a top eminent Italian Judge – without the right to strike, collective bargaining is nothing more than begging. Unions must be given the right to strike to be effective,” Lo pointed out.
Although the present Labour Law does allow strike it imposes restrictions such as processes to be completed, including secret balloting whereby a two-third majority of membership is required, making it impossible to strike, he added.