MTUC Sarawak: Proposed amendments to Industrial Relations Act a ‘game changer’

Andrew Lo

KUCHING, Oct 12: Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak welcomes the tabling of the amendments to Industrial Relations Act (IRA), describing it as a game changer towards a more effective industrial relations in the country.

MTUC Sarawak Division secretary general Andrew Lo emphasised that the move was also timely as the long overdue amendments will facilitate the development of more effective unions and a more robust industrial relations system that were currently heavily skewed towards employers.

“It is in line with the Shared Prosperity Vision (SPV) which has targeted a higher worker share of the economy,” he said in a press statement today.

Lo pointed out that before its amendments, it has resulted in workers being paid below productivity and workers’ share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was among the lowest amongst competitors at just 36 per cent.

“It has also led to the foreign workers malaise. This in turn has stifled consumption demand and one of the reasons why the Malaysian economy has been under performing,” he stressed.

Commending Minister of Human Resources M Kulasegaran for the timely amendment to the IRA, he noted that the Minister has held very comprehensive and robust consultations not just with the principle stakeholders – MTUC and Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), but other workers, employer’s groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well.

“We have even sought technical advice from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and studied other countries’ systems as well,” he shared.

According to Lo, the National Labour Advisory Council has conducted numerous technical committee meetings all over the country and discussions were transparent, robust and detailed though invariably heated as MTUC and MEF represented conflicting interests.

“It is not easy to reach a consensus. In this regard, the government being elected by the people, has to play its role to decide what is the best way forward. We also need to consider the views of various government agencies involved in the process. We must accept that not all proposals by stakeholders can be adopted, especially if it is opposed by the employers,” he stressed.

He asserted that in MTUC’s analysis, although it was disappointed that not all MTUC’s proposals were reflected in the amendments, it nevertheless was optimistic that the amendments will be far more positive for workers and the labour movement, the economy and the country.

“We will continue to work with Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR) to move forward. In this regard, we are disappointed that the Sarawak state government has continued to refuse to have consultations with workers on amendments that affect the state,” he highlighted.

MTUC Sarawak also called on MEF to move away from opposing any benefits for workers.

“We are well aware of their undying opposition to increase in retirement age, minimum wage and Employment Insurance (EI). With EI, at least now, worker of Utusan Melayu who lost their jobs will have some payments to lessen the burden. We are also embarrassed by the recent decision to vote against the Convention Concerning Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work,” he stressed

“We still remember how, some employers are ready to cut their noses, to spite their faces, as they wanted to amend the Companies Act to give priority to payments of retrenchment benefits to workers ahead of all creditors, to try to stop the EIS,” he recalled.

“If the Company’s Act is indeed amended to place retrenchment benefit – which is a contingent liability, priority over secured debts-banks, creditors or suppliers will never want to extend any loans, credit lines or buy any company bonds,” he said.

Lo, who is also Sarawak Bank Employees Union chief executive officer (CEO), pointed out that credit and loans were the bedrock of any businesses.

“It just shows how employers in Malaysia are so paranoid when it comes to any scheme that may bring some protection to workers who have lost their jobs.This paranoia is the stumbling block to the country’s drive towards a high income, and high productive nation,” he said.

“As we move into the digital economy, long antiquated regressive policies must be thrown out and we must adopt international best practices that is in line with our SPV,” he added.— DayakDaily