Labour law reforms long overdue, MTUC Sarawak tells Putrajaya

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KUCHING, April 30: Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak chairman Mohamad Ibrahim Hamid said there must be a strong political will to stand up to employers and their powerful lobby and move ahead with labour law reforms.

“We must amend the labour laws to offer greater protection to workers and their unions. We must strengthen the trade union movement in line with international standards,” he said in his Labour Day message.

“MTUC Sarawak fully supports the government’s proposal to adopt the ILO convention on trade union registration, recognition and representation.”

Mohammad Ibrahim called on employers stop their fear mongering and to realise that their incessant whining had led Malaysia to this untenable situation.

He shared that workers and trade unions must grasp this opportunity to push for change and embrace international labour standards and practices.

“The current trade union structure is not effective anymore. We have seen evidence from countries where unions are strong, effective, representative and independent that the real wages have increased. What is more important, the industry/enterprise that they exist in has flourished, where profitability and productivity are amongst the highest.

“Yet in Sarawak, state government-linked companies continued to deny trade union representation,” he opined.

Mohammad Ibrahim said it simply made no sense to push for economic growth and investment that create low-paying jobs for more than three million foreign workers.

“Up to 80 per cent of workers in the timber and plantation sectors are foreign workers, while tens of thousands of Sarawakians have to leave their families to work in Singapore, Johor, Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

“Some `Anak Sarawak’ are so desperate that they are conned in thinking that Cambodia offers better opportunities than Sarawak,” he reminded.

Mohammad Ibrahim said the government must eliminate corruption and corrupt practices in all its forms and at all levels, including the “shadow economy” of cheap beer, contraband cigarettes, loan sharking and firecrackers.

He described them as the “mother of all problems” and undermined the implementation of government policies and threatened effective, transparent and fair enforcement.

“On wages, we are pleased that with effect from Jan 1, 2019, workers in Sarawak finally managed to enjoy the same rate of minimum wage as in West Malaysia. It makes no sense for minimum wage to be lower in Sarawak when the cost of living is 15 per cent to 25 per cent higher compared to West Malaysia.

“We are pleased to note that Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has finally echoed what MTUC has been saying that employees have been shortchanged all these years. We feel vindicated,” he added.

Mohamad Ibrahim pointed out that increasing wages would spur domestic demand, lead to more business for companies and spur the drive to increase productivity. It would also encourage innovation and investment in technology and also reduce dependency on foreign workers.

“It will help ordinary workers cope with the increase in the cost of living due to the weak ringgit and a controlled economy, especially in Sarawak, where big businesses have flourished at the expense of consumers. Price increases are exorbitant. Houses have become out of reach for most people,” he lamented.

Mohamad Ibrahim said MTUC Sarawak was happy that the government was now embarking on a much needed comprehensive labour law reforms to bring about meaningful change.

“There must be greater empowerment of workers and recognition of trade unions to enable them to bargain for fair wages. The current laws make it easier for employers to sack workers and stifling trade unions.

“As a result, collective bargaining is nothing more than collective begging,” he said. — DayakDaily