Malaysiakini Letter

Objections to amendments to the Industrial Relations Act

K Veeriah

LETTER | The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) have been, almost on all occasions, advocating opposing views on the review of labour-related laws and matters related to these laws.

That is expected as we, MTUC, represent the interest of the working population, while the MEF represents the employers.

However, in an almost unprecedented move, MEF has elected to parrot the MTUC's demand that the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967, tabled and passed by the Dewan Rakyat, be rejected by the Upper House, the Dewan Negara.

Notwithstanding the procedural polemics related to the passing of the said amendments, such as the disregard to the tripartite system and the ILO Convention 144, etc, the indisputable fact remains that the Human Resources Ministry has taken upon itself to bring into effect changes to the Industrial Relations Act.

And, as we are given to understand, the ministry is prepared to table amendments to the Employment Act 1955 and the Trade Union Act 1959 to Parliament. If that be the case it would, inevitably, lead to another round of protest from the MTUC and MEF, a clear indication being the MEF's position against the 90 days maternity leave provision.

I, in my capacity as the secretary of MTUC Penang Division, have taken the position that a review of laws related to workers ought to be approached in a holistic manner, not on a piecemeal basis.

I had even solicited the view that the appropriate mechanism would be the establishment of a Labour Law Reform Commission comprising stakeholders (MTUC, MEF and Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers), civil society (eg, Tenaganita, Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition and advocacy groups), the Bar Council, Suhakam, etc, so as to address, inclusively, the diverse concerns of the working population of the nation.

It is also my opinion that the Pakatan Harapan government cannot abdicate its commitment to empowering the trade union movement and the workers of the nation.

I, therefore, urge Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran to refrain from tabling the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967 in the Senate.

I also call upon Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to exercise his discretion to initiate a Labour Reform Commission so that a comprehensive review of the existing labour laws can be carried out.

K VEERIAH is secretary of the Penang Division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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