KOTA KINABALU: The federal government has a legal and political duty to consult the Sabah government, Sabah’s employer associations, chambers of commerce, trade unions and other stakeholders before making any amendments to the Sabah Labour Ordinance and any labour policies affecting Sabah.
Former chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee said this is because the federal law on labour matters in Sabah is not the federal Employment Act but the Sabah Labour Ordinance.
He said the Sabah Labour Ordinance is a “Sabah law declared federal” meaning that the federal law is unique to Sabah.
“It is risky and irresponsible for a federal minister to propose changes to the Sabah Labour Ordinance without consulting Sabah stakeholders,” he said.
“Therefore, I am shocked to read the news of the Sabah Employers Association that the federal government is proposing major amendments to the Sabah Labour Ordinance without first consulting the Sabah Employers Association as one of the key stakeholders,” he added in a statement yesterday.
“Let me remind the federal and Sabah governments that Sabah in the 1990s had rejected the proposed extension of the federal Employment Act to Sabah because Sabah has all along insisted on retaining some autonomy over labour matters, including over foreign workers,” he said.
Yong said that if the Employment Act had been extended to Sabah, then the Sabah Labour Department would have been downgraded to a mere department answering to the federal Director-General of Labour just like any other states in Peninsular Malaysia.
“Because Sabah had successfully rejected the proposed extension of the federal Employment Act before, the Sabah Labour Department now answers directly to the ministry without having to be submerged among other states,” Yong contended.
“This semi-autonomous status for our Sabah Labour Department means that the federal Ministry of Human Resources has to, legally and politically,consult the Sabah government and stakeholders in Sabah on any matters concerning the Sabah Labour Ordinance and labour matters.
“Sabah’s voice and issues can be heard loud and clear without the unequal effects of having our voice and issues lumped together with other national issues which are different from those affecting Sabah,” he added.