I REFER to the report “MTUC urges Dewan Negara to reject ‘rushed’ labour law amendments” (The Star, Oct 13; online at https://bit.ly/2WbeXlx).
I am perplexed by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress’ (MTUC) vehement opposition to the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967 (Act 177), which was passed by the Dewan Rakyat recently.
MTUC has kept harping on the fact that the amendments tabled were not endorsed by the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC), a body comprising the MTUC, Malaysian Employers’ Federation (MEF) and Human Resources Ministry, among others.
But the reality is that the NLAC has met nine times this year, whereas it only met about twice a year in the past. This excludes various technical and sub-committee meetings.
The NLAC is a platform for consultation. Not only are the views aired there diverse, but some would also be competing given that the tripartite platform is made up of entities with different interests. But at the end of the day, it is the ministry’s job to protect the welfare of the 15.19 million workers in this country.
It would be naive to think that the NLAC will be able to come up with a solution that pleases all parties when the MTUC president, Datuk Abdul Halim Mansor, and his secretary-general, J. Solomon, cannot even see eye to eye on fundamental labour issues.
What is important is that the opinions of all parties are sought with a view to cultivating a robust labour ecosystem that is in line with the needs of Industrial Revolution 4.0.
In fact, Sarawak MTUC secretary Andrew Lo had lauded efforts by the Human Resources Ministry in the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act, describing them as a “game-changer” for industrial relations. This is evidence that even within MTUC there are diverse views.
Lo also lauded the ministry for its comprehensive and robust
consultations with not just the principal stakeholders, like MTUC and MEF, but also with other workers and employer groups, NGOs and the International Labour Organisation.
This now begs the question of why the MTUC headquarters is so opposed to the amendments without even spelling out clearly the specific provisions it has a beef with. Could it be because MTUC is afraid that its powers would be diluted by the “freedom to form unions” provided for in the amendments? Or could it be because the trade union office bearers are posturing ahead of their upcoming internal elections? Do they have the interests of the workers at heart or that of their posh posts?
When it comes to politics, MTUC has never hidden its leanings. Its president has roped in PAS in an attempt to torpedo the passage of the Bill in the upcoming Senate sitting. Let’s not forget that Abdul Halim himself had called on MTUC members to back Barisan Nasional during the last general election.
As Industrial Revolution 4.0 sweeps across the world, it is imperative that governments and trade unions are ready to adapt to the rapidly changing human resources needs. The last thing we need is to be bogged down by archaic mindsets or laws that will hamper our readiness to embrace this technological wave.
If the MTUC is not prepared to rise up to this challenge, it is time we look for another body to champion workers’ welfare.