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LETTER | Workers demand swift implementation of labour law reforms

LETTER | In conjunction with Labour Day 2021, Labour Law Reform Coalition (LLRC) calls on the government to explain whether it has suspended the labour law reform exercise indefinitely.

Since the formation of the new government in February 2020, LLRC has been requesting meetings with the Ministry of Human Resources and sent multiple letters in relation to the amendments of the Trade Union Act 1959, Employment Act 1955 and secret ballot formula (for union recognition).

Regrettably, we did not get any response from the ministry with regard to estimated dates of enacting the Trade Union Act, Employment Act and new secret ballot regulation. The government continues to remain silent after the proclamation of emergency in January 2021.

Trade unions and worker organisations are frustrated with the "no progress" of labour law reform after the Industrial Relations Act took effect with plenty of reservations. Workers hit by the Covid-19 pandemic lack of a proper bargaining platform because of the low unionisation rate of six percent.

In celebrating Labour Day 2021, we urge the government:

1. To immediately reconvene the Parliament, pass the amendments to the Trade Union Act and Employment Act proposed by the Ministry of Human Resources in 2019.

2. To remove reservations imposed on the Industrial Relations Act and allow trade unions to seek recognition with companies beyond the existing trade, industry and occupation categories.

3. To revamp the secret ballot formula by "votes cast" to ensure a fair union recognition process.

4. To ratify the ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and ensure our industrial relations system is fully in compliance with the ILO Convention 98 on Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining and that this is ratified by the government.

5. To kick off discussions on the new minimum wage rate for 2021 at the National Wages Consultative Council level and implement it as soon as possible.

6. To make a new ministerial regulation and define e-hailing riders as workers so that they can form trade unions and bargain collectively with employers.

7. To enact a standalone Sexual Harassment Act and ratify the ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment.

8. To set up a migrant workers’ hotline at the Labour Department to deal with complaints including confiscation of passports and wage arrears. To increase labour inspections to ensure domestic workers can enjoy one day off every week.

9. To set up a royal commission of inquiry to investigate all kinds of problems facing migrant workers.

10. To fully implement and enforce the Employee's Minimum Standards of Housing, Accommodations and Amenities Act as a measure of community infection control.

11. To overhaul the social protection system, extend protection for unemployed workers, informal workers and those who fall below the poverty line during the Covid-19 pandemic.

12. To amend the EPF Act to include additional incomes such as tips in the service sector as wages in calculating EPF contributions.

The writers are co-chairpersons of the Labour Law Reform Coalition.

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

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