PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has lambasted Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran for being “arrogant" in his approach to dealing with the body's complaints over the labour law amendments that were approved by Parliament recently.
The MTUC, which represented 15 million workers, said Kulasegaran did not allow the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC), which comprises the MTUC and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) to discuss and reach a joint solution to the amendments for the Industrial Relations Act 1967.
“The minister has taken a very arrogant and militant-like approach in dealing with our basic complaint in that he refused to allow the NLAC to discuss and reach joint solutions on the proposed amendments.
“This was the promise he made at one of the NLAC meetings, which he obviously did not keep.
“We regret that the honourable minister has conveniently forgotten his own pledge to have NLAC and its technical committee deliberate on the proposed amendments and reach a consensus before they are submitted to the AG (Attorney General) and final reading in Parliament, ” said the MTUC in a statement Sunday (Oct 20).
MTUC also warned Kulasegaran and top ministry officials to immediately cease “issuing half-baked statements that do not address his unilateral actions in tabling bad laws at the current Parliament sitting”.
On Saturday (Oct 19), the Human Resources Ministry denied claims it did not consult the MTUC or employers’ groups over the labour law amendments, saying that discussions over it started as early as December 2018.
“The draft amendments to Act 177 were presented and discussed with MTUC and MEF, separately, on Aug 26 in Putrajaya.
“The views of both MTUC and MEF were taken into consideration and only a month later, on Sept 26, was the final text of the amendments submitted to the Attorney General’s Chambers and a copy of the text was extended to all NLAC members,” it said.
The ministry also stressed that the amendments did not need the endorsement of these groups, as the only requirement was consultation.
“The ministry hopes the above explanation will put to rest unwarranted claims by MTUC and MEF that the amendments to Act 177 need to be endorsed by them.
“The only requirement is consultation which speaks for itself in our explanation,” it said.
However, the MTUC said that while Kulasegaran’s stand was that his ministry was not duty bound to get endorsements from the NLAC as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 144 on Tripartite Consultant (C144) only spoke about consultation, social dialogues must be “effective and meaningful”.
The ILO defined tripartite consultation as “the interaction of the government, employers and workers (through their representatives) as equal and independent partners to seek solutions to issues of common concerns, said the MTUC.
In other words, MTUC said this required the involvement of the social partners alongside the government on equal footing in decision-making.
“MTUC’s stand is that the NLAC was never used as an effective forum of consultation on the labour law reforms as intended by C144.
“We also stand by our statement that the minister undermined the NLAC and unilaterally handed a set of bad laws to Parliament for approval on Oct 7 and 9.
“All the spin put in the various statements churned out by Kulasegaran and his officials have failed to debunk this,” it said.
The amendments to the labour law were not groundbreaking and did not reflect the wishes or aspirations of their respective members and affiliates of the NLAC, said the MTUC.
It said that Kulasegaran has also been giving misleading statements but has yet to respond to the MTUC’s challenge to make public the minutes of the NLAC meeting.
“By making public the minutes or at least providing the media access to them, the public can easily judge if indeed, ‘effective and meaningful’ consultations were carried out by the Human Resources Ministry in accordance with C144," said MTUC.