MTUC Sarawak slams leaders for opposing proposed Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2019

Andrew Lo

KUCHING, Dec 11: Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak fully supports the proposed Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2019 as it gives greater freedom of association to workers, according to MTUC Sarawak secretary-general Andrew Lo.

He asserted the proposed amendment is consistent with and the way towards ratification of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 87 which covers freedom of association and the right to organise.

“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,” according to Lo in a statement issued here today,

The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2019 was passed in Parliament on October 9, and is now pending approval in the Upper House of Senate.

Lo reiterated that some union leaders opposing the amendment which allowed other qualified organisations to represent workmen were merely protecting certain individuals’ masquerading as MTUC officials to enrich themselves and to continuing to enjoy the current monopoly.

“Not all workers are members of unions affiliated to MTUC; (thus) it is selfish for a single organisation to have the sole right to represent workers,” Lo said.

According to Lo, among the many benefits in the bill are: direct appeal to the High Court, to make it easier and cheaper for workers to challenge Industrial Court decisions; no compensation limit for union members in union busting cases; removal of ministerial power to allow automatic reference to an Independent Court; employers to pay increased penalties and interest if they do not comply with Court Awards; workers who are deceased can have their cases continued; and employees in statutory bodies allowed access to Independent Courts, as per Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs)’s objective.

He reiterated that MTUC’s position throughout its history consistently called for the ratification of ILO Convention 87.

“This was reiterated most recently during the last Triennial Delegates Conference (TGM) held on Nov 29-30, 2016 which called for the urgent amendments of our labour laws to be in line with the convention,” he added.

Lo stressed that the existing “peaceful” Industrial Relations climate which employers have been trumpeting about in the past 60 years has resulted in only two per cent of private sector workers being unionised.

“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 as reported by World Bank and Bank Negara.”

Lo pointed out that as the government moves towards a digital economy, long antiquated regressive policies must be thrown out and Malaysia must adopt international best practices.

“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.

“We must no longer limit unions to specific establishments, trades, occupations or industries when industries merge and businesses integrate and go online,” Lo higlighted, adding that casual, part-time and off-site employment would make it extremely difficult for traditional unions to organise and protect workers.

He pointed out that the experience of countries which allowed multiple unions actually resulted in unions merging into bigger and more effective unions as workers were 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. And with due respect, the Federal Court Decision in the case of NUBE v Mayneu is based on current law, not on the proposed law so it is misconceived to rely on the court’s rationale.

“The current law has led to a situation that only two per cent of private sector workers are members of a union. That is why the amendment is to make it easier for workers to join unions by removing existing barriers,” added Lo. — DayakDaily