The 'contractor for labour' system weakens worker and trade union rights to the detriment of workers. The 'contractor for labour' is essentially a labour supplier - a supplier of workers.
It allows employers to use a large number of workers whilst evading employer responsibilities and obligations. Workers supplied are not considered 'employees' of factories and businesses they end up working, but Malaysia sadly considers them 'employees' of the labour supplier - the contractor for labour. If factories and businesses want to get rid of a 'supplied worker', it is as easy as picking up the phone, and the said worker no more works in the factory or businesses. Hence, no need for disciplinary proceedings, domestic inquiries and/or legitimate 'retrenchment' as means of getting rid of 'undesireable' workers.
These supplied workers, although they do the same work as the employees of the factory or business, can easily be discriminated - by being less or even being denied some of the other worker benefits. 'Supplied workers' also have no right to demand better rights and working conditions from their real bosses, the employer of these factories and/or businesses they work at. The labour supplier, of course, have no power to improve work conditions at the workplace...
Being supplied workers, they cannot even join the in-house trade unions at their workplace and hence this not only is a gross denial of 'trade union rights' - but also causes the existing trade union of employees at the work place to become 'WEAK' - well, this happens when number of supplied workers just keep increasing... in some workplaces, the number of these 'supplied workers' (some call them outsourced workers) may even exceed 50% of the total workforce at the workplace. Obvious weakening of trade unions - their bargaining powers...[Malaysia still does not place any legal limit on the permissible numbers of 'non-employee' workers working in the workplace...
Supplied workers can join national or regional unions....BUT they will not be able to enjoy the benefits and rights contained in a Collective Bargaining Agreement, that being an agreement between Union and Employer of the Workplace.
Contractor for Labour or 'Labour Suppliers' - supply worker to many different sectors and industries, and considering that Malaysia only allows national/regional unions based on sectors/industry/... it is near impossible for these supplied workers to be able to join a national or regional trade union and for that union to get the recognition of the employer, the said Labour Supplier/Contractor for Labour... The Southern Regional Electronics Union did try, but the 'government' also denied them the right to be recognized - not even a 'Secret Ballot"...
Malaysia had (and still has) the Private Employment Agencies -whereby they found 'workers for employers' or 'employers for workers' - and, when employer and worker meet, they enter into an EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENT and there is an employer-employee relationship. For their service, the Private Employment Agency receives a FEE - a one-time fee.
In comparison, these Labour Supliers (Contractor for Labour) remains employer to the supplied workers - and is PARASITE on the sweats and toils of these workers. The more the workers work and earn, the more Profits the Contractor for Labour earns. Like 'toll collectors', they continue to earn...and earn, and so those who get the license/permits to be able to do this is akin to 'striking gold'...and, who does the government give these permits to? They are akin to the 'kanganis' of old or even the 'slave masters' - use my 'slaves' and pay me....
The contractor for labour system is grossly unjust to workers and trade unions, it undermines worker-solidarity and certainly weakens unions... Bad factories and businesses like this - use the labour with no employer obligations is a great deal, and Malaysian government allows this.
Malaysian Trade Unions including MTUC and so many civil society groups oppose the 'contractor for labour system' and want it gone...
Malaysia amended some labour legislations, giving statutory recognition to this practice - and, the government to pacify some unions and parties agreed not to make these new amendments applicable to some sectors. VICTORY - no, it is not for the 'contractor for labour system' is still going on everywhere, and all that is not in force is some provisions of law...
Has the Malaysian Trade Unions abandoned their demand for the abolition of the 'contractor for labour system' - I do not believe so, even if the demand seem to be 'forgotten' in some memorandums ...
See the joint statement below to understand better why the 'contractor for labour system' must be abolished.
In the interim period, Malaysia could limit the usage of such 'non-employee workers' to no more than 5% - and/or insist that all such workers are made employees of the factory or actual workplace.
93 Groups:- Abolish the ‘Contractor for Labour’ system Withdraw the 2012 amendments to Employment Act 1955.
Joint Statement – 3/5/2012
Abolish the ‘Contractor for Labour’ system
Withdraw the 2012 amendments to Employment Act 1955.
We would like to address just one of several aspects of the new amendments that is the main bone of contention, i.e. the introduction of the new provision for the definition of “contractor for labour”.
With the amendment, the contractor for labour will be the third party (or the middleman) who will come in between the now direct employment relationship between the owner-operator of trade or business (defined as the “principal”) and their worker-employee.
The Employment Act 1955 was introduced before independence (Merdeka) by the British Administration effectively abolishing indentured labour, bonded labour and the “kanggani” system in Malaya. (collectively then known as the “contract system”). The Act also did establish two very important principles of law which are considered sacrosanct to this day. They are, security of tenure – ensuring permanence of employment, and proprietary right to the job – where termination of worker, shall be only with just cause and excuse and by due process.
The employment scenario in the country began to change in the early 1990s. In 1992 the government allowed migrant workers for the construction and plantation sector. In 2000, it was extended to manufacturing and service (hotel and restaurants) sectors and in 2002, it was extended to all sectors.
Originally migrant workers were employed directly by the principal employer but this started to change in 2005, when the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers in its meeting on 5-July 2005 agreed to the recruitment of foreign workers through outsourcing companies (now known as ‘Contractor for Labour’ in the amended Act). The issuance of these outsourcing licenses was strangely done by the Ministry of Home Affairs, not the Ministry of Human Resources. There are today about 277 registered labour outsourcing companies in the country today. (The Star, 23-Feb 2010).
This establishment of the outsourcing companies allowed for the re-emergence of the old ‘contract system’. It opened doors resulting in a direct assault on the basic foundation of labour rights, the undermining dignity of labour, perpetuating the establishment and operation of dehumanized and bonded labour. The practice, which started with migrant workers, was then extended to local workers.
These outsourcing companies recruited local workers and migrant workers, some on fix term contracts, with terms and conditions usually less favourable than that of workers directly employed by principals.
The incidence of principals using workers supplied by outsourcing companies is growing. The principal company pays the outsource company an agreed sum of money for the number of workers supplied, whether they be local or migrant workers. The principal company effectively is able to avoid the employer’s duty and obligation to ensure their workers’ rights and welfare are protected. This practice also saved principal company money that would have ordinarily been expended for workers like medical cost, insurance, bonus, wage increments, retirement benefits, transportation and accommodation, service awards, and several other benefits. It also allows them to evade statutory contributions to the Employees Provident Fund and for social security schemes. The principal company also evades all obligations and safeguards in law when workers are hired or terminated, including domestic inquiries and lay-off and termination benefits. If the principal wants to now get rid of workers, it now merely have to inform the outsource company.
To convert the workforce from permanent employees to short-term contract employees, and now outsourced workers, most principals either retrenched their workers, used “voluntary separation schemes” or other methods, or simply terminated their employees substituting them now with workers supplied by the outsourcing companies.
REASON FOR THE AMENDMENT
These outsourcing companies have been allowed to operate outside the law with no law regulating them. Even though they were manpower/labour suppliers, they were not created under and/or regulated by the Private Employment Agencies Act 1981, which would have also ensured these manpower/labour suppliers would only provide workers and not become employers of workers supplied.
The recent amendment to the Employment Act is to give these outsourcing companies statutory recognition under the Employment Act, and at the same time institutionalize and legitimize employment through the outsourcing companies, which now legally will be legally known as the “contractor for labour”.
A primary reason for the creation of the ‘contractor for labour’ and the introduction of labour outsourcing is to stifle workers and trade unions capacity to demand and negotiate for better rights and benefits. The MTUC Memorandum to the HR Minister dated October 7, 2008 refers to an interview with Datuk Ishak Mohamed, the Enforcement Director of the Immigration Department that was published in New Straits Time, July 20, 2008, where he, amongst others, said, ‘…outsourcing is good as it will attract foreign direct investment. Investors do not want unions to be formed in their establishments. Through outsourcing, it would be difficult for unions to be formed as outsourcing company, and not the factory, would be the employer…’ is indicative of the intention of the government.
SUB-CLASS OF WORKERS.
The creation of this new sub-class of workers, who are not considered employees of the principal, also jeopardizes existing employment relationship between the principal and their current worker-employees, likewise the relationship with their trade unions. Today, these new sub-class of workers, made up of both local and migrant workers, are found in most workplaces, including even government-linked companies, whereby in some factories they currently make up about 50% of the total workforce. Trade unions are being weakened, and their bargaining powers for better rights and benefits for workers are slowly eroding by the increasing presence of workers who are not employees of the principal, and also by the loss of security of tenure created by short-term contracts.
‘Contractor for labour’ is actually outsourcing of labour which is very different from outsourcing of work. Outsourcing of work is when principal employer outsources some specified work or operations which are not their core operation, to another company who carries out the work for the principal using their own employees under their own control and supervision. For example, in several manufacturing companies, cleaning, turf/gardening, canteen and security services are examples of outsourced work. This outsourcing of work is legal, and the workers of those who are doing outsourced work are protected by the Employment Act.
EMPLOYMENT (EXEMPTION) ORDER 2012
The MOHR Minister, in an attempt to placate the MTUC, trade unions, civil society groups and workers issued an exemption order, effective April 1st 2012, which, amongst others, stated:-
The contractor for labour and their practices should not be allowed in any sectors including the plantation and agricultural sector.
We, therefore, demand for the repeal of all amendments to the Employment Act 1955, in particular the amendments to section 2, 31, 33A, 69, 73 brought about by Employment (Amendment) Act 2012 [ACT A1419] relating to the ‘contractor for labour’ and their practices, and pending repeal for an immediate stopping operation of the said amendments.
We call for the abolition of the contractor for labour and their practices and that all workers, currently supplied by these 3rd party manpower/labour suppliers (contractor for labour) who are still not direct employees of the principal employer be immediately made employees of the said principal and be accorded same benefits and treatment as accorded to all other employees without discrimination, including the right to form/join trade unions or afford protection and entitlement to the benefits accorded through their respective Collective Agreements.
We call for the abolition of precarious employment, and for retention of a just 2-party employment relationship between principals and workers, and for the respect of worker and trade union rights.
For and on behalf,
ALIRAN (Aliran Kesedaran Negara), Malaysia
Amalgamated Union Employees Tenaga Nasional Berhad (AUETNB )
Solidarity of Cavite Workers, Philippines