Monday, December 23, 2013

New leaders and a New MTUC - championing worker rights in new effective ways?

Same President but new Deputy, Secretary General, etc - but the question before us is whether these new leaders of the Malaysian Trade Union Congress(MTUC), which represents non just member unions(and their members) but all workers and trade unions in Malaysia will better fight for and protect worker rights. 

Yes, MTUC represents all workers in Malaysia, including the un-unionized Malaysian and migrant workers. It is a recognition accorded to them by Malaysia as well as the international community and the ILO(International Labour Organisation). As such, the responsibility placed upon these new leaders are great, and what is demanded of them is that they will act without fear or favour for the best interest of workers and trade unions in Malaysia.

Over the years since Independence(1957),especially in the last few decades. Malaysia's UMNO-led coalition of parties(now known as the Barisan Nasional) has been slowly withering away worker and trade union rights in Malaysia - the latest being the removal of what was once the norm, i.e. 

(1) Regular employment being permanent employment until retirement. This has slowly been replaced by precarious short-term(or fixed duration) contract employment whereby even if the work requiring the worker still exists, the worker is terminated. Under the 'regular employment' practice, even when a worker is to be laid-off or retrenched, there was the obligation on the employer to try to find alternative employment within the workplace - providing employment  was the priority. Termination simpliciter of the worker was not permitted - requiring a Domestic Inquiry and termination permitted was only those 'with just cause'. With more years of employment, workers are bestowed with more rights like annual leave, sick leave and this was also a factor when it came to retrenchment and termination benefits - all of which is still rights in Malaysian laws but is now being effectively denied through the usage of short or fixed-term contracts. This phenomena started in the private sector but today is also present in the public sector. MTUC, in the past failed, to stop this trend away from regular employment which we hope now will change and MTUC will lead the fight to stop the trend of 'short-term contract employment'. Note that the Malaysian worker generally buys houses and vehicles on loan, and loan payments must be paid monthly and as such a loss of income and employment because of 'short-term employment contracts' imposes way too much financial difficulties on the worker and their families. It is even more precarious for older workers and for women, who just got married and/or who are pregnant. Short-term employment contracts also creates docile easily exploited workers, who even will not be interested in forming or joining trade unions.

(2) Contractor for Labour system - this removed the right of direct employment relationship between an employer with a workplace in need of workers(the principal), and the workers themselves. Workers at a workplace find that the person supervising and in control of their work employment is not their employer - because the principal through an agreement with a 3rd party(the contractor for labour) is getting their workers from the 3rd party, who Malaysian government and law claims is the true employer. The 3rd party does not control the work environment, and really cannot do anything to improve working conditions and work benefits. This system also weakens the Union of workers employed by the principal, as there is no limit and soon more than 50% (maybe even 99%) would no longer be employees of the principal, and directly the bargaining power of the union diminishes. Malaysia does the limit the usage of such workers at the workplace, which I believe should be limited to not more than 5% and to those work not being the core work or core business of the principal.

(3) Outsourcing of work - Now, many workplace employers outsources work to 3rd parties, who then are responsible for these work that is done by the the 3rd party employees. It started with security, cleaning and upkeep of the of the work area and surrounding compound,... and even to financial matters (like preparing of pay slips and payment of salaries, etc) now more and more. Banks outsourced internet/phone banking and even check processing and clearance to 3rd parties... End result, again the weakening of trade unions and worker rights.

The most effective tool of unions and workers have been the STRIKE - which was where workers just stopped work, until the employer agreed to sit down and negotiate on worker just demands. Well, Malaysia has not only passed laws that has made it very difficult to strike, but also carry out other forms of industrial actions like 'go slow', 'work to rule'(which meant workers collectively just worked normal working hours refusing overtime, work on rest days and public holidays). What Malaysia did was to expand the definition of STRIKE to include such actions as well.  The right to picket is also there and again this too has been restricted not only in terms of venue but also as to who can participate...

Removal of (or making it more difficult to) strike or carry out other forms of industrial actions was premised on the fact that trade disputes would be best resolved by means of 'arbitration'/mediation through the intervention of the government in employer-employee(trade union) disputes - but alas not only is the systems in place 'inefficient' but just takes too much time, all to the detriment of workers and trade unions. Many of these laws extinguishes worker rights by reason at their absence at one meeting, or by reason that 'time had lapsed' - but it is not so when it comes to employers. Even, after many many years when the Industrial Court finally determines that a worker has been wrongfully dismissed, the worker is not reinstated and is only compensated with a sum that is not more than 24 months (after further odd subtractions). 

It is not just workers but also worker leaders (including union presidents) that have become victims of such termination and injustice. We remember Hatta Wahari (Presiden NUJ- National Union of Journalists), Wan Noorulazhar bin Mohd Hanafiah (President of the Electronic Industry Employees Union Western Region, Peninsular Malaysia (EIEUWR), Chen Ka Fatt and Abdul Jamil bin Jalaludeen (Treasurer and Vice President of NUBE - National Union of Banking Employees) and most recently Ismail Nasaruddin the president of the NationalUnion of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM) Effectively, employers now can get rid of worker leaders, and not have to worry about any discontent or retaliation from their workers vide a Strike or an Industrial Action..and the whole legal process can take years and years... Employer suffers nothing but manages to get rid of strong worker leaders - whilst workers lose their leaders and those suspended and then terminated losing all financial security...

The methods of raising grievances with the Ministry(government) and 'closed door' meetings, many a time whilst fellow workers have no role to play and sometimes even kept in the dark only serves to further weaken the worker movement and trade unions. Workers want to do something in solidarity, to protest against 'bad employers' - but alas they just cannot and the 'stumbling block' is not just the government and bad laws - but sometimes the lack of leadership and initiative from leaders. NUBE seems to be one of the few that continues to maintain a steady stream of protest actions that allow the participation of ordinary members to fight against the injustices that affect even one of their members. Maybe, the presence of Solomon from NUBE in the new line-up would help MTUC regain some of its 'power' and enable for greater involvement of active worker participation in worker struggles - even when it affects 1 or a few workers. 

MTUC needs to reclaim the support of workers, and maybe it needs to do some through mass rallies and protest actions that hopefully would see hundreds of thousands. During Merdeka day celebration, the government have large processions and the primary object is to show 'its strength' and 'its support' - maybe MTUC needs to revive May Day processions in all towns and activities that see participation of hundreds of thousands. This would show not just the government but also employers, that Malaysia's workers movement is 'very strong'...that MTUC and the Trade Union leaders still have the capacity to move Malaysian workers into action 

It was embarrassing when only a few hundred turns up in Putrajaya for an MTUC called picket, compared to the fact that the Malaysian Bar which has only 12,000 members was able to get almost 2,000 in similar action. Likewise, it was embarrassing when there was no strong continuous protest by MTUC and all workers when 18 in Pekan were terminated for handing in a MTUC memorandum to get commitment for worker rights to candidates contesting in the General Elections..

Hence, it is not just new leadership that is important but a leadership committed to CHANGE in its approach and methodologies, which must necessarily include worker organizing and empowerment which leads to greater and active participation in the millions of Malaysian workers in the struggle for worker rights and well-being. MTUC and union leaders must no more be begging for rights but demanding for what is just and right for the good of all workers and their families. Naturally this should also include the TPPA, which MTUC is already committed to action... 

The MTUC leadership needs to show that MTUC is still the leader of workers in Malaysia, and as such needs to be respected by government and employers...As leaders, let us not forget that education and empowerment of the ordinary worker is and should be a priority. 

Chen Ka Fatt

President:-                           Mohd Khalid Atan 
Deputy President:-                Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid
Secretary General:-              N Gopal Krishnan (NUTEAIW)
Deputy Secretary General:-   A Balasubramaniam(UNEPASS)
Financial Secretary:-            Awang Ibrahim(UBIW)
Deputy Financial Secretary:- Harry Tan Hock Huat(NUTP)

Vice President (Private Sector) 
Mohd Khir Mansor 
Maktar Siwang 
Ng Khoo Seong 
J Solomon (NUBE)
Bruno Pereira

Vice President (Public Sector)
Rosni Aziz
Kang Bee Leng
Hashim Adnan

Vice President (Statutory Body)
Ahmad Helmi Ibrahim
Zainal Ismail
Ikmal Azam Thanaraj Abdullah

Published: Sunday December 22, 2013 MYT 11:00:00 PM
Updated: Sunday December 22, 2013 MYT 11:06:19 PM

Incumbent MTUC president Mohd Khalid retains post

KUALA LUMPUR: Incumbent MTUC president Mohd Khalid Atan retained his post at the triennial delegates conference on Sunday.

The deputy's post was won by PKR unionist Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid.

Mohd Khalid received 297 votes to beat incumbent secretary-general Abdul Halim Mansor who garnered 173 votes.

The race for the deputy president's post saw a three-cornered fight between Abdullah Sani, who is PKR's Kuala Langat MP, walking away with 213 votes.

In 2010, Abdullah Sani failed in his bid to become the MTUC secretary-general.

Speaking to reporters, Abdullah Sani said his first course of action would be to form a bipartisan research committee parliamentary caucus to discuss workers' issues.

"I will visit all the states to listen to the problems that we will submit to this committee so that they can be debated in Parliament," he said.

He added that the issues include the minimum wage, foreign workers and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Mohd Khalid said the MTUC was facing a challenging road ahead, and he hoped to face it head on.

"We have to work together to improve the MTUC, and focus on unity and solidarity among ourselves," he said.

National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW) secretary-general N Gopal Krishnan was elected secretary-general while Union of Employees of Port Ancillary Services Suppliers (UNEPASS) secretary A Balasubramaniam won the deputy secretary-general's post.

Union of Beverage Industry Workers's (UBIW) Awang Ibrahim retained his post as MTUC's financial secretary while National Union of Teaching Professional's (NUTP) Harry Tan Hock Huat is the deputy.

Mohd Khir Mansor, Maktar Siwang, Ng Khoo Seong, J Solomon and Bruno Pereira were elected vice-presidents under the private sector category.

Ahmad Helmi Ibrahim, Zainal Ismail and Ikmal Azam Thanaraj Abdullah were elected vice-presidents under the statutory bodies category.

Rosni Aziz, Kang Bee Leng and Hashim Adnan won the vice-presidents post under the public sector without contest.

A total of 473 delegates participated in the vote. The MTUC's new leadership term will run from 2014 to 2016.- S
tar Online, 22/12/2013,Incumbent MTUC president Mohd Khalid retains post

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