The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) has taken aim at apparently "malicious" statements that could jeopardise Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran's efforts to reform the Employment Act 1955.
"We disagree with the statement (made in the story) 'Make proposed amendments public, Kula told' published by Malaysiakini on March 9," said MTUC secretary-general J Solomon, though not directly naming the group making the statement.
Yesterday, the Decent Work Working Group – a loose group comprising trade unions, labour NGOs, and even MTUC deputy president Mohd Jafar Abd Majid and vice-president Maktar Siwang – urged Kulasegaran to make public the final draft of the amendments to the Employment Act before it is tabled in Parliament.
The group claimed that civil society and trade union groups were in the dark about the progress of the bill, just months after the Human Resources Ministry had sought public feedback on the amendments.
Solomon warned workers to stay united and ignore such statements, however.
"Statements that run contrary to the good work by the minister, the ministry and the long-awaited opportunity for us to improve the rights of workers, are driven by malice and are an attempt to mislead the public and to disrupt the ongoing reform process.
"We urge workers to stay united and participate in the roadshows that will be carried out with the assistance of the International Labour Organisation and other labour rights experts, and ignore sour grapes," he said.
As the MTUC leader pointed out, Kulasegaran had set up the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) to endorse the final draft of the labour law amendment.
"This is the first time in 60 years the ministry is undertaking a review of the labour laws in the country and being exceptionally transparent about it.
"This is an International Labour Standard process for amendments, and trade union leaders are fully aware of this process.
"This process has been the demand of MTUC for many years and we are finally seeing the light of it, with the cooperation of the minister."
According to Solomon, the Human Resources Ministry had published the proposed amendments to both the Employment Act and the Workers' Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 on two occasions last year.
"MTUC organised several discussions and workshops for its affiliates, with the support of ILO and other international labour law experts, to understand and respond to the proposed amendments.
"Some of the members from the 42 trade unions participated in these discussions and workshops," he added.
Solomon noted that the recommendations put forth after these discussions were later incorporated into the proposed draft amendments.
In addition, he said that a labour law review workshop will be conducted from March 12 to 14 to share the proposed amendments with MTUC affiliates, workers and the public.