Several labour unions want the government to hold dialogues with them on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) involving workers’ issues.
Union Network International-Malaysian Liaison Council (UNI-MLC) president, Mohamed Shafie BP Mammal said this was because information released on the TPPA was still vague and incomplete.
“The TPPA has several clauses which affect the people and country, especially workers, among them, the entry of foreign workers,” he told Bernama.
“Many labour issues are not stated such as minimum wage, total working hours, pregnant women’s rights and facilities, union protection and so on... these should have been included in the TPPA.
“The minimum labour standards should have been set and taken seriously, apart from trade issues,” he said.
Mohamed Shafie said it was still not too late for the government to ensure the rights of workers were protected and improved following the agreement which was still in the legal process to obtain the approval of every TPPA participating country.
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general, N Gopal Kishnam also questioned why there were no protection and efforts to promote union activities in the agreement.
“When a trade transaction is simplified between TPPA signatory countries, why is the setting up of workers’ union not simplified?” he said.
Gopal claimed that the TPPA appeared to reduce the role of labour unions as the issues involving trade and investment were dealt with more compared to labour issues which were incomplete.
“The MTUC is worried that Malaysia may have to amend workers’ rights in order to comply with the terms set in the TPPA, so the government should be firm in not allowing foreign companies to demand various regulations which can adversely affect workers in Malaysia,” he said.
‘Foreign workers would also protect their colleagues’
Asked on the relaxation of conditions on foreign workers to hold posts in labour unions if the TPPA was agreed upon, Gopal said it would not create any problems as foreign workers would also protect and represent their colleagues.
“What is happening now is that employers do not allow foreign workers to be union members as this is disallowed by the Immigration Department.”
He said MTUC did not object to foreign workers becoming members of unions and in fact welcomed them on the condition that the interest of local workers was not jeopardised.
Transport Workers Union (TWU) secretary-general Zainal Rampak said the best move which should be made by the government was to reveal all information on the TPPA to the public and to obtain feeback from them as the information provided so far was not comprehensive.
Malaysia and 11 other countries, namely Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Singapore, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, US and Vietnam had completed negotiations on the TPPA on Oct 5 in Atlanta, Georgia (US).
According to information found on the International Trade and Industry Ministry’s (Miti) website on the TPPA, the agreement does not concede the rights on entry of foreign labour including professionals, and would be controlled by the law and regulations in Malaysia and would be based on the needs of the industry.
Apart from that, the government will continue to give priority to local workers.
According to Miti, the chapter on labour in the TPPA contained areas on workers’ welfare and rights, including clauses on minimum wage, security and health which have already been implemented in Malaysia.