Tuesday, November 10, 2009

If there are NO unions at the workplace, will workers (including migrant workers) be allowed to form a union?

Should workers be allowed to organize? Should they be allowed to form unions, associations, clubs, societies, etc...?

Of course, workers should be allowed to organize .... form unions or associations. One of the functions of these associations and unions would be to look into the welfare of workers, and by welfare, we are talking about all aspects of welfare. Come together to share problems, discuss issues, play and socialize, organize trips, etc...

People in a foreign land certainly have more need to get together with others from their 'home country' or others in a similar situation for the purpose of mutual support and welfare - and, as such, I find it very wrong for Malaysia to oppose the right of migrants to form associations, clubs, societies...

UNIONS - well, migrant workers have the right to join unions in Malaysia.

But, if there are no unions in their workplace, can they form a union? I believe that they can - but alas, we still do not have a test case.

Of course employers love to deal with workers individually - it makes them more vulnerable - easier to be 'cheated' and oppressed.

Unions improve the power and position of workers when it comes to negotiations with employers. United, the workers talk and negotiate as one...and in that way, workers have managed to get better rights as workers.. [ But remember, Malaysia is a pro-business country and hence, it does not promote workers forming unions, and that is why less than 10% of Malaysian workers belong to unions today....]

What about the existing UNIONS, especially the National Unions - don't they do a lot to educate workers about unions and help workers form unions in places where there are no unions yet? Sadly, many Union leaders, behave like 'politicians' today - only interested in ensuring that their position in the union leadership is secure - and hence they only do the minimum. They certainly do not seem to be interested in educating workers about their right to unionize, or encouraging the formation of new unions... This is what I see - I hope I am wrong.

Now, our HR Minister is saying that foreign workers cannot form unions, and I believe that he is very wrong. Our Malaysian constitution guarantees all persons equality - "All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law" (Art. 8(1)) - and disallowing a category of workers the right to form a union is certainly wrong. Workers have a right to form and/or be a part of a union - and Malaysia should not disallow this right.

"...will not be allowed to form their own trade unions but can join existing ones.." - What if there is no union in that workplace? Can the workers then form their own union, Mr Minister?
Kuala Lumpur Foreign workers in Malaysia, a majority of whom come from Indian subcontinent will not be allowed to form their own trade unions but can join existing ones, Human Resource Minister S Subramaniam said in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

Although he admitted that there are cases of abuse of foreign workers by Malaysian employers, he said both local and overseas workers come under Employment Act 1955 and have similar rights in wages, leave, working hours, layoff notice and insurance coverage.

"Many foreign workers in plantations have become members of the National Union of Plantation Workers and can lodge

complaints and seek justice," he told the parliament.

Thousands of Indians and nationals from Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh work in Malaysia that heavily relies on foreign workforce to help out in plantation, construction and restaurant sectors.

However, there have been several cases where employers ill treated the migrants, depriving them of wages and food. In April, Ganesh, a migrant worker hailing from Tamil Nadu

was chained and starved by his ethnic Indian employers in northern Malaysia's Kedah state before he died. Subramaniam said incidents of abusing foreign workers occur in other countries as well.- expressindia.com, 5/11/2009, ‘Foreign workers in Malaysia cannot form unions’

1 comment:

Voooney said...

I had recently learned of a factory that is more akin to a sweat shop, normal working hours and overtime is longer than legally permissible, wages are being paid incorrectly and salaries deducted illegally.

These workers are either oblivious to their rights or had been beaten so hard that they feel it is pointless to comaplain' or simply just grateful they have a job at all.

I would have to agree with subra on this, the national union will have more resources to bring these sweat shops into line.

It is sad to see these things happened againa and again.

Remember the Hytex incident? where an Australian TV crew came and filmed a garment sweat shop?