K Veeriah calls on the PM to initiate a labour reform commission so that a comprehensive review of existing labour laws can be carried out.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) have been, almost on all occasions, advocating opposing views on the review of labour-related laws and matters related to these laws.
That is expected as we, the MTUC, represent the interest of the working population, while the MEF represents the employers.
However, in an almost unprecedented move, the MEF has elected to parrot the MTUC’s demand that the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967, tabled and passed by Parliament, be rejected by the upper house, the Senate.
Notwithstanding the procedural polemics related to the passing of these amendments, such as the disregard of the tripartite system and the ILO Convention 144, the indisputable fact remains that the Ministry of Human Resources Ministry has taken it upon itself to bring into effect changes to the Industrial Relations Act.
And, as we are given to understand, the ministry is prepared to table amendments to the Employment Act 1955 and the Trade Unions Act 1959 to Parliament. If that be the case, it would inevitably lead to another round of protests from the MTUC and the MEF, a clear indication being the MEF’s position against the 90-day maternity leave provision.
I, as the secretary of Penang division of the MTUC, have taken the position that a review of laws related to workers ought to be approached in a holistic manner, not on a piecemeal basis.
I had even solicited the view that the appropriate mechanism would be the establishment of a labour law reform commission – comprising stakeholders (the MTUC, the MEF and the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers), civil society (eg Tenaganita, Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition and advocacy groups), the Bar Council, Suhakam and other groups. This commission would be able to address, inclusively, the diverse concerns of the nation’s workers.
The Pakatan Harapan government cannot abdicate its commitment to empowering the trade union movement and the workers of the nation.
I, therefore, urge Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran to refrain from tabling the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967 in the Senate.
I also call upon Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to exercise his discretion to initiate a labour reform commission so that a comprehensive review of the existing labour laws can be carried out.
K Veeriah is secretary of the Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress.