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MTUC has always pushed for ratification of ILO convention on freedom of association

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The Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) refers to a news report that quoted the Ministry of Human Resources as saying that the MTUC had previously rejected the ratification of International Labour Organization Convention 87 by the government.

The ministry’s response was apparently a rebuttal of MTUC general secretary J Soloman’s call to the ILO to persuade the Malaysian government to ratify Convention 87.

To the best of my knowledge, the MTUC has always pursued the goal of ratification of ILO Convention 87 on the fundamental right to freedom of association and the right to organise.

The MTUC’s push for the ratification of the convention has always been a priority over the past decades. And, as I can recollect, the MTUC has never compromised on the matter.

Penang MTUC is therefore baffled by the ministry’s statement that the MTUC had rejected ILO Convention 87 osentsibly on the grounds of the multiplicity of unions at the workplace.

We are also concerned with the ministry’s statement that it abandoned amendments to the Trade Unions Act 1959 and the Industrial Relations Act 1967 on account of the MTUC’s purported position on Convention 87.

Firstly, it would be impossible for the MTUC leadership to deviate from the collective decision of the organisation on the pursuit of the ratification of Convention 87.

Secondly, the ratification of Convention 87, in all its form, has no middle path – you either adpot it lock, stock and barrel or not. And that is a fact that the MTUC is fully aware of. Under such circumstances, we believe that the MTUC leadership would not have stood in the path of the ratification of convention as it has been a priority item on the MTUC’s policy agenda for a long, long time.

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Having made our point in the matter, we wish to turn to the ministry’s decision to abandon crucial amendments to the Trade Unions Act 1959 and the Industrial Relations Act 1967.

If the Pakatan Harapan government is truly committed to labour law reforms, it must live up to that pledge by bringing about meaningful changes to existing labour legislation.

For the trade union movement to break out of the entrapment of uncaring and repulsive labour laws that curtails the development of a vibrant labour movement, it is vital that the ministry brings about the appropriate changes to existing labour laws without any undue delay.

Abandoning urgently needed changes to the prevailing restrictive provisions of the Trade Unions Act 1959 and the Industrial Relations Act 1967 is not, in our view, an option.

We therefore urge the ministry review its position in the matter.

K Veeriah is secretary of the Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress.

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