Sunday, September 19

MTUC Sarawak backs Industrial Relations Act amendments despite objections at national level


Andrew Lo

KUCHING: Malaysian Congress Trade Union (MTUC) Sarawak fully supports the proposed Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2019 because it contains improvements for workers, its secretary general Andrew Lo said.

Hitting out at the union’s leaders at the national level who are against the amendments, he said it would also pave the way towards ratification of the International Labour Organisation Convention 87 which covers the freedom of association and right to organise.

“Among the many other benefits in the bill is a direct appeal to the High Court to make it easier and cheaper for workers to challenge the Industrial Court’s decisions, no compensation limit for union-busting cases to union members and the removal of ministerial power to allow automatic reference to the Industrial Court,” he said in a press statement today.

On top of these, Lo said employers are to pay increased penalties and interests if they do not comply with Court Awards and where a worker has died, their cases can now continue.

Allowing employees in statutory bodies access to Industrial Court is also the objective of the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services Malaysia (Cuepacs), Lo pointed out.

“MTUC’s position has throughout our history consistently called for the ratification of ILO Conventions 87.  This is reiterated most recently during the last Triennial Delegates Conference held on Nov 29 to 30, 2016 which called for the urgent amendments of the our Labour Laws to be in line with the convention,” he said.

The existing “peaceful” Industrial Relations climate that employers has been trumpeting the past 60 years has resulted in only 2 per cent of private sector workers being unionised, he said.

“This is a main reason why Malaysian workers are being paid below productivity and workers share of GDP in Malaysia is at a miserable 36 per cent compared to our competitors at 50 to 60 per cent,” he said quoting World Bank and Bank Negara reports as sources.

“This also reduces domestic consumption and puts a damper on economic growth. It also contributes to lack of investment in innovation as employers find it more profitable to rely on low wages and millions of foreign workers. This is why Malaysia has fallen behind our economic competitors.

“There is an urgent need to bring our labour laws to international standards otherwise our exports may be denied access to global markets. The Malaysian Timber Certification Council also require compliance with International Labour Standards.

“As we move into the digital economy, long antiquated regressive policies must be thrown out and we must adopt international best practices.”

Lo said union leaders should focus on how to organise the 98 per cent of non-unionised workers instead of clinging on to a dysfunctional and self defeating model.

Trade union leaders must not be just concerned about their own unions and position, he added.

“We must no longer limit unions to specific establishment, trade, occupation or industry when industries merged and businesses integrate and goes online.”

Lo said casual, part time and off site employment would make it extremely difficult for traditional unions to organise and protect workers.

Experience in countries that allow multiple unions actually result in unions merging into bigger and more effective unions as workers are empowered to choose the best unions to represent them.

Unions who actually listen to their members and workers should not be worried of being busted, he said.

“With due respect the Federal Court Decision In the case of  NUBE v Mayneu is based on current law, not proposed law so it is misconceived  to rely on the court’s rational. The current law has led to a situation that only two per cent of private sector workers are members of a union,” he said.

That is why the amendments is to make it easer for workers to join unions by removing existing barriers, he reasoned.

Lo,  who is also Sarawak Bank Employees Union (SBEU) chief executive officer, claimed leaders of MTUC at the national level wanted these barriers to remain in place in place so that certain unions could continue to control and have a monopoly.

“MTUC Sarawak is very disturbed that the president and general secretary are imposing personal views and rants on MTUC and workers. Their views are self serving and a gross misrepresentation of MTUC’s views,” said Lo.

Last week, the Ministry of Human Resources said it would leave the decision to approve the proposed amendments to the Industrial Relations Act (APP) 1967 to the members of the Dewan Negara.

Its minister, M. Kula Segaran, expressed his hope that the proposed amendments would receive the support from all members of the Dewan Negara as there were rumours of certain parties trying to lobby the senators from the opposition to reject the amendment.