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Minimum wage and 45-hour workweek: National MTUC leadership indifferent?

Given the MTUC's failure to tackle critical issues, the formation of a congress of unions in the private sector may be appropriate


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The national leadership of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress seems to have abdicated its fiduciary responsibility at a time when various concerned groups are calling for the enforcement of the national minimum wage for the most vulnerable segment of workers.

The concerned groups that have taken the lead are Jaringan Pekerja Kontrak Kerajaan (the government contract workers network or JPPK), the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), concerned individual trade unions and other components of civil society.

As the apex workers’ organisation, the national MTUC leadership is expected to be at the forefront in the pursuit of compliance of the law, whether it pertains to the minimum wage or the reduction of the workweek to 45 hours.

Outrageously, the current national MTUC leadership, unlike in the past, has not appeared to have lifted a finger in challenging the abuses perpetuated by employers on fundamental issues such as the implementation of the minimum wage and the absolute reduction of the workweek to 45 hours.  

While JPKK, PSM and concerned civil society groups protested before the prime minister’s office to highlight non-compliance of the law, the MTUC national leadership has remained domesticated over the matter.

The current national MTUC leadership seems to have wrapped itself in a cocoon – living di bawah tempurung (under a coconut shell), oblivious to the plight of the workers!

It has neither the conviction to assemble the numbers to mount a protest against recalcitrant employers or the establishment. Taking to the streets, apparently, is not in its mindset nor in its dictionary.

It lacks the enthusiasm, conviction and courage to embark on a plan of action against uncaring employers and the government’s failure to enforce acts of Parliament.

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So we need to consider whether an alternative national trade union centre is needed to safeguard, promote and articulate the interests of employees in the private sector – who are undoubtedly the engine of the country’s economic growth.

Decades ago, an attempt was made to form a national trade unions centre to represent workers in the private sector – with the acronym CUPS, ie congress of unions in the private sector.

Given the abject failure of the national MTUC leadership in addressing basic issues confronting private sector employees such as employers’ refusal to implement the national minimum wage and the 45-hour workweek, the formation of a congress of unions in the private sector may well be appropriate.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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K Veeriah, a longtime Aliran contributor, has been a trade union industrial relations officer, involved mainly in collective bargaining and handling trade disputes, since 1978. He has also served as secretary of the Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress since 1991, after stints on the MTUC's national executive committee and general council
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12 Feb 2023 2.42pm

Well said Sir, the MTUC of the 70s is now a lost identity. Political affiliation however small n simply did not bode well for workers at large. It’s definitely time for the birth of a new common front to revisit n revise worker’s rights movement.

Paul Lim
Paul Lim
12 Feb 2023 6.01am

The MTUC has been dead for years in my opinion even with all the knowledge and support of the ITUC and its predecessor, the ICFTU.

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