Press Statement by Labour Law Reform Coalition on 20 June 2022 in Shah Alam
Labour Law Reform Coalition (LLRC) refutes the baseless assumption of the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) that trade unions could be used as a political tool to bring detrimental impact to the economic stability of the country should the Trade Union Bill 2022 is passed.
MEF president Syed Hussain Syed Husman selectively ignores that the Trade Union Act 1959 clearly stipulates that the objective of trade unions is to promote good industrial relations, improving the working conditions of workers or enhancing their economic and social status, or increasing productivity, and representing workers in trade disputes.
In fact, even after the Trade Union Bill 2022 is passed, the section 12(3)(d) and 12(3)(d)(e) of the Act still give the Director-General enormous power to refuse registering a trade union if the union constitution conflict with the act or regulation, or the union “promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races, religious and nationalities.”
We disagree with the contention of Syed Hussain Syed Husman that the proposed amendments will lead to outbreak of strikes and disruption of public order.
The proposed new strike procedure, requiring at least sixty per centum of union members attended secret ballot and obtain more than one-half of the votes by secret ballot, although an improvement of the previous requirement (two-third attendance and more than two-third votes), is still a very high threshold for trade unions to meet.
Given the high-threshold of the strike requirement, according to the statistics of the Trade Union Affairs Department, there has been zero strike of trade unions in the past six years. Most trade unions could only organize pickets to avoid violating the draconian law. So, what else industrial harmony that MEF wants?
For decades, trade unions have been highly responsible, cooperate with the government and commit to foster good industrial relations. Yet unscrupulous employers, emboldened by draconian law, dismiss or punish workers for slightest industrial actions without impunity. It is high time to remove the unreasonably harsh provisions enacted during the British colonial period.
Therefore, we call on the government not to entertain the wild imagination and irresponsible remarks of the MEF. MEF has always resorted to fear mongering instead of being responsible and forward-looking employers.
The employers’ federation will never support any improvement of workers’ rights because its sole aim is to squeeze maximum profit from workers through an exploitative economic system.
The MEF president should emulate its counterpart in Sweden, Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, which accepts free trade unionism with open heart while maintaining harmonious industrial relations with Swedish trade unions. Employers must become more mature and negotiate with their social partners without the unfair leverage from supposedly neutral state machinery.
In the second reading of the Trade Union Bill 2022, we hope the government chooses the side of 99% workers, instead of the 1% millionaires.
N. Gopal Kishnam
Labour Law Reform Coalition