The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has criticised Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran over amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967, that among others, will allow multiple unions at the workplace.
The MTUC, in a statement, said allowing an unlimited number of unions within the same workplace will "create discord and divide the labour movement".
"This particular set of amendments introduced by the minister will greatly harm the solidarity of trade unions and weaken the bargaining power of workers and unions," said MTUC secretary-general J Solomon (above).
Solomon accused Kulasegaran of making a U-turn after initially agreeing with MTUC's position.
"If passed, it will enable multiple unions being created at workplaces, leading to chaos, in-fighting among unions and deprive workers of effective bargaining power,” he said.
The amendments were approved by the Dewan Rakyat on Oct 7 and will go before the Dewan Negara.
The Human Resources Ministry had said the amendments were in line with the spirit of the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise 1948.
"This would allow a multiplicity of trade unions in an organisation.
"Due to this, the provision on the application for sole bargaining rights is introduced to enable the workmen to choose the preferred trade unions in the event there is more than one recognised trade union representing the workmen.
"This will ensure only one trade union, which has obtained the highest number of votes, to have sole bargaining rights to represent workmen in collective bargaining," it said.
However, Solomon argued that the amendments would allow the director-general of industrial relations to "bestow" sole bargaining rights to the union with the highest number of members.
"With the new amendments, these unions, despite obtaining prior recognition, will need to go through another secret ballot to compete with rival unions for sole bargaining rights.
"This will definitely create instability and split the union movement, not strengthen it.
"The amendments, if passed, will see unions busy fighting with one another, pinching members from one another, and bad-mouthing one another," he said.
Solomon claimed that employers and Human Resources Ministry can then promote their preferred unions.
“Once a union has been voted in for sole bargaining rights, the remaining unions become defunct as they do not have the bargaining rights.
“As such, the only logical reason behind the Human Resources Ministry push to create a multiplicity of unions is to create disharmony among unions to stop them from carrying out their roles effectively.
“This is a clear case of state-sponsored union-busting and unfortunately the minister who is supposed to protect labour is, in reality, exploiting workers and unions by abusing his power,” he added.
Solomon said restrictive laws that force trade unions to obtain formal recognition curtails the labour movement and should be amended or abolished.