On behalf of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), we extend fraternal greetings to all workers in Malaysia and the world over.
Workers have with courage and determination contributed to the growth of our nation.
For the 14 million local and five (5) million foreign workers in Malaysia, Labour Day will remind us to be grateful to our forefathers who fought and sacrificed their lives to secure eight hours work which we enjoy today.
On this Labour Day, we must seriously note the observations made by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) with regard to worker-related affairs in our country.
Malaysia has been classified under Category 4 of the Global Human and Trade Union Rights Index. Category 4 means the workers and trade unions face silent, subtle and systematic actions to suppress and prevent workers and trade unions from exercising their rights and undermining workers’ rights for just and fair developments/growth and progress.
In view of this, our efforts should be to take corrective measures to undo these negative sentiments. In order to achieve socio-economic justice and to ensure Malaysia’s Vision 2020 goals are achieved, we need to work hand in hand for the following reforms:
1. The current Labour laws must be amended with pre-emptive and pragmatic grievance handling procedures which will definitely achieve a cultured work environment in Malaysia for its betterment.
2. Cases that do not see the light of settlement at the Industrial Relations Department must be referred directly to the Industrial Court.
The current practice of the human resources minister determining the reference is injustice to workers/unions, resulting in unnecessary expansion of workers/unions funds for judicial review.
3. The limitation of 24 months on back wages for unfair dismissal must be revoked immediately since cases cannot be heard and determined with the said time frame. Further, discounts on the amount of compensation paid just because the unfairly dismissed workers are gainfully employed at the time of determining the case must also be abolished.
4. The Human Resource Development Fund should be extended to all sectors and shall spell out provisions for training for all levels of workers, not executives and top management.
5. The Education Act should introduce basic Labour Laws and Rights in the school curriculum so that students will understand and know the value of work when they enter the world of work.
6. The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) Act must be amended to ensure that workers’ monies in the EPF is not invested in entities that exploit workers and indulge in union busting.
There must be equitable distribution of wealth for the people of this country all of God’s children and rights that are real and respected by all.
7. Declaration of higher dividend on the EPF for the year 2016 must be declared. We have substantiated the facts and communicated to the Honourable Prime Minister. The EPF is the only available retirement benefit for the private sector workers. Therefore, in the context of ever-increasing cost of living, the accumulated fund of the workers at the time of retirement must be given real value.
8. Minimum wage to be raised to RM1,500.00 and all employers to pay a cost of living allowance (Cola) of RM300.00 immediately for the B40 and M40 categories. This will assist in overcoming increased cost of living.
9. Access to affordable home including affordable interest rates must be looked at immediately.
10. Engagement with social partners must be strengthened to facilitate initiatives in resolving issues affecting workers/trade union rights to create a far better atmosphere and enhanced productivity.
11. Draw up criteria to qualify as Industrial Court chairpersons. They must be properly trained in Industrial Laws and Practices and International Labour Standards.
12. Technology must be enhanced to better serve the public and not simply to lay off workers. The technological advancement and the resultant impact on workers’ livelihood is frightening and will be disastrous if steps to establish a safety net is not drawn-up fast.
13. Local workers cannot be replaced by foreign workers instead, guidelines to ensure employers deployed foreign workers in the right perspective should be drawn up. Further, foreign workers should be granted equal rights as well as the right to join unions.
If we, in any way, fail to contribute towards securing socio-economic justice, then we lack the social vision in whatever we are doing for the organisation, for the nation and for the next generation.
Therefore, our bold contention is that if the tripartism works well, we can achieve enormous tasks for the needs of society as a whole. We definitely have the ability to accomplish it, and our nation has the ability to provide it.
We wish all workers a Happy Labour Day.
J SOLOMON is secretary-general, Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).