Workers’ rights in Malaysia have been eroding since Merdeka, with workers today being modern day slaves in the master-servant relationship.
To an extent, we workers are to be blamed for this situation. We have not stood united and fought the oppressive tactics of employers and governments.
The trade union movement is the one movement that ignores all divisions of race, religion and other characteristics. It is a powerful organisation and it is for this reason that employers and governments are afraid of the trade union movement.
Our ignorance of our rights is the cause for us to be modern day slaves impoverished by the one percent of wealth owners.
We, the workers, will need to take this upon ourselves to strengthen the trade union movement.
Most of the employers seem to regard trade unions as their No 1 Enemy. Some even engage consultants to bust the unions. These are behaviours of employers who do not want to achieve decent work practices and have no positive contribution towards economic and social progress.
In Malaysia, this type of ruthless behaviour seems to have taken on a different dimension, with employers racing to outbid the other in the race to be anti-labour.
The main driver of such behaviour is a corrupt mindset. It is corrupt because every ringgit that is denied to a worker is one that someone in senior management pockets for himself or herself.
This type of short-term thinking and selfishness will not benefit the Malaysian economy. But, the employers are not bothered.
The Malaysian government is supposed to be safeguarding the rights of the workers and trade unions. Instead, the government is acting in cahoots with employers to rob the rights of Malaysian workers.
The three main labour laws - the Employment Act 1955, Industrial Relations Act 1967 and Trade Union Act 1959 are supposed to be in line with international labour standards and principles of fair labour practices.
Sadly, workers are not able to enjoy the protection and the benefits of the international labour standards as the state is unable to comprehend and implement these, so that all stakeholders will benefit from the standards. As a result of this incompetency, we have an imbalance of decent work practices in the workplace.
The government should get its act and priorities in order.
We are at a stage in Malaysia where there is a total lack of judiciary activism. The judicial system seems to ignore the rights and needs of Malaysian workers and the oppressed. The legal system is in such a poor state that the purposive interpretation of the law is completely lost. It is so bad, that employers are able to abuse the judicial process.
Employers have the means to have matters delayed within the judicial system. The costs, though, cannot be sustained by employees and trade unions. It is a case of bankrupting employees and trade unions before even the merits can be decided.
We do not have a check-and-balance system.
A reform of the system s needed.
The judiciary should take it upon itself to ensure that the abuse of power by the executive and employers are checked and that the principles of social justice are preserved.
What can we do?
Yes, it is true. The odds are stacked against us. But, if workers all decide, we can make a change. Unity is the only answer. When workers are united, we will prevail against this corrupt system.
Workers must work hard to strengthen the trade union movement in this country, and internationally.
Long Live Workers! Long Live NUBE! Long Live Trade Unions!
Happy Workers' Month to all.
J SOLOMON is the general-secretary of the National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE).