Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran did not issue any directive to the Industrial Court, contrary to what was claimed by the Penang chapter of the Malaysian Trade Union Congress.
In reference to a wrongful dismissal claim by 36 former Megasteel Sdn Bhd employees, Penang MTUC Secretary K Veeriah said last week that due justice for workers involved could be compromised with the 12-month time frame for the disposal of cases allegedly ordered by the minister.
According to the ministry, Veeriah's claim shows an erroneous understanding of the workings of the court, and the purpose for which it was created – to deal with industrial disputes.
"A brief history would allow (Veeriah) to understand the workings of the Industrial Court being a body created under the Industrial Relations Act 1967, a social legislation to deal with the employer-employee disputes.
"Section 30(3) of the Industrial Relations Act makes it abundantly clear that all industrial disputes referred by the minister to the Industrial Court are to be resolved without any delay and where practicable, within 30 days of reference by the minister," the ministry said in a statement today.
"In this regard, the Ooi Hong Tatt & Ors vs Megasteel Sdn Bhd referred by the (then)-minister (Richard Riot) on Oct 28, 2016, should have been resolved in 2016 or as soon as practicable in the spirit of the act.
"Unfortunately, this was not the case here, as this matter was only disposed of on July 1, 2019. Why such a delay to the detriment of the employees and the uncertainty created for the employer remains unanswered by the (Penang MTUC) secretary," it added.
The ministry said that Parliament’s original intention behind legislating the act was to determine if a worker's dismissal is just, since the primary remedy in the Industrial Court is reinstatement.
"Thus for all intents and purposes, the dispute between the workman and employer must be resolved without any delay in order to offer finality to the workman as to whether he ought to be reinstated or otherwise.
"Any delay against the spirit of this act is not promoting industrial harmony," it said.
According to the ministry, procedural requirements often cause cases before the Industrial Court to take a long time to resolve, and have a direct bearing on outcomes.
"The misconception that the minister has set a time frame for resolving cases in the Industrial Court within 12 months, and that this time frame compromises justice for workmen does not arise at all.
"At most the 12 months time frame is only a guideline."
The minister stressed that all cases must be determined and disposed of expeditiously, where each and every chairperson takes charge of his or her own court without interference.
It added that stakeholders' cooperation will ensure that the spirit of the legislation is adhered to in order to serve justice not only to employees, but also to employers.