Sunday, December 17, 2023

Trade Unions (Amendment) Act 2023 - Ending the British 'Divide and Rule' Labour Movement - that decreased unionization from 50% plus to today 7%?

Trade Unions (Amendment)  Act 2023 - This Bill was passed on 10/10/2023 by the Dewan Rakyat, and 'This Bill seeks to amend the Trade Unions Act 1959 (“Act 262”) with the main objectives to remove restrictions on the formation of a trade union based on particular establishment or similarity in trade, occupation or industry and to allow multiplicity of trade unions within any establishment, trade, occupation or industry. This is in line with the freedom of association as the workmen and employers are free to establish or join any trade union of their own choosing' .

This BILL is positive for Malaysian workers and Trade Unions as it finally removes what the British Colonial government did to WEAKEN Workers and the Trade Unions in Malaysia.

Methods the British employed to weaken and control the labour movement included the enactment of laws like the Trade Union Ordinance of 1940, and the appointment of the Trade Union Advisor.

One of the primary objects of this Trade Union Ordinance was to stabilise the labour situation in the interest of increasing production to sustain Britain's economy and its war efforts. It was not concerned about worker or trade union rights....
The stated object in the title of this 1940 Ordinance was, “An Enactment for the Registration and Control of Trade Unions''. Its declared purpose was the fostering of “the right kind of responsible leadership amongst workers and at the same time to discourage or reduce such influence as the professional agitators may have had and to reduce the opportunities or the excuse for the activities of such persons.''

It was clearly to weaken the existing labour movement, and transform existing trade unions and union leadership into what the British wanted.

The existing worker solidarity was to be destroyed, and a “divide and weaken” policy was the aim. Private sector workers were to be separated from public sector workers, and workers from different industry and sectors were to be kept apart....In 1947, the Pan-Malayan General Labour Union, which was established in 1946, changed its name to Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU).

It boasted a membership of 263,598, and this represented more than half the total workforce in Malaya. 85 percent of all existing unions in Malaya were part of the PMFTU...
 The Trade Union Ordinance of 1940 was again amended to weaken unions. New amendments to the Trade Union Ordinance were passed by the Federal Legislative Council on 31 May 1948. The amendments were in three parts.

The first stipulated that a trade union official must have at least three years of experience in the industry concerned.

The second prohibited anyone convicted of certain criminal offenses (notably intimidation and extortion, which were common charges against unionists) from holding trade union office.

The third stated that a federation could only include workers from one trade or industry...On 12 June 1948, the British colonial government finally outlawed PMFTU....Many of the leaders of the labour movement were arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced. SA Ganapathy, for example, who was the first president of the 300,000-strong PMFTU, was hanged by the British in May 1949...
In January 1949, there only remained 163 registered trade unions with a total membership of only 68,814. In comparison, PMFTU had a membership of about 263,598 – which represented more than 50 percent of the total workforce.

The Council of Trade Unions was formed. It organised the Conference of Malayan Trade Union Delegates from 27 to 28 February 1949, and this gave birth to what is today known as the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).

Now, since the amended new trade union laws prohibited the formation of trade union federations from different trades, sectors and industry, MTUC could not be registered as a trade union or a federation of trade unions, and had to be registered under the Societies Act as a society...

Good to read the earlier posts:-

In Malaysia, the law says ONLY ONE Trade Union in a workplace/factory - Hence, what many employers could do was to set-up or help set-up  a Trade Union that is 'friendly' or under their influence. So, they could form 'IN-HOUSE Trade Union' for the workplace. Now, once there is a trade union in the workplace/factory, no OTHER trade unions can be formed. Other National, State or even Regional trade unions are BARRED by law from entering and unionizing at the said workplace/factory >>> Now this Trade Unions (Amendment)  Bill 2023, if and when it is passed by the Senate, assented by the King and put into force by the Minister changes things. Other trade unions can be formed at the workplace, and National/State/Regional Trade Unions can enter, and finally workers will have a CHOICE to join a better trade union that will be able to fight for their rights.

When a National/Regional/State Union enters a workplace/factory to organize - they are prevented by the Employer by saying that the factory/workplace is under a different sector/industry. Example when the Metal Worker Union goes in, they are disallowed because the Employer says that it is not under the jurisdiction of the metal union - but should be under the electronic union(and the State agrees). Then, later when the electronic union goes in, the objection of the employer could be that it ought be under the metal union - not the electronic union. As such, unions have been having difficulty entering some places because of such objections raised by the employer >>  Now this Trade Unions (Amendment)  Bill 2023, if and when it is passed by the Senate, assented by the King and put into force by the Minister changes things. No more will employers be able to use such reasoning to keep trade unions out...

One other problem with Trade Unions is the 'leadership' as many are active in organizing and empowerment of members when and if numbers are needed to seek RECOGNITION of the employer, as a Union can do certain things including enter into a Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA), ONLY after the union has to be RECOGNIZED by the Employer. The Union will usually send a communication to the Employer seeking recognition - but many an employer will refuse, then there will be a need for a SECRET BALLOT where all employees who qualify to be member of the said Union will be required to VOTE, and the Union needs to secure the support of 50% plus one to be entitled in law to be recognized as a trade union of the workplace. 

Hence, Unions actively organize workers then BUT sadly after gaining recognition, many unions may no longer be active in organizing or communicating regularly with workers. Then, it may be that the leaders want to keep the crown or leadership position safe. Some Unions also may reject membership applications of workers - possibly to safeguard the position of the then leaders, and avoid the risk of future leadership challenges. Whatever the reason, workers suffer. Workers also do not have the ability to form on their own a better stronger union as there is that ONE Union one workplace rule, and the ONE Sector/Industry one union rule...and the One Occupation One Union Rule > so even National/State/Regional not just workplace unions are 'safe' that there can be no other Union in the workplace, national/state/regional level with regard a particular sector/industry or occupation ...How many national/state/regional trade unions have successfully managed to unionize all the workplaces/factories that rightfully fall within its now existing jurisdiction? How many electronic factories have been successfully organized within the existing jurisdiction of the Regional Trade Unions? Small - why? In Malaysia, for the private sector, the percentage of unionized workplace is only about 3 per cent, nationally if we include the public sector and statutory bodies, it is about 7 per cent.  Is it because the ONE union in these sector/industry/occupation have been slacking off, or is it because they simply cannot get the support of the workers within their particular sector/industry/occupation. In terms of political parties, a person has so many choices...and now if the this Trade Unions (Amendment)  Bill 2023, if and when it is passed by the Senate, assented by the King and is put into force by the Minister changes things. No more will workers who are currently unionized suffer, they will have choices with regard to which unions they can join. It will also wake up 'sleeping unions' as whether they get to enter into a Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA) now will depend on which union has the highest membership in a particular workplace/factory.

Will the passing and coming into force of the Trade Unions (Amendment)  Act 2023 improve the situation for workers and Trade Unions. Will it increase the level of unionization to reach 50% as it was before the British Colonial Government attacked and 'killed' the Trade Union movement, which sadly even after Independence, the UMNO-led coalition chose to maintain the same position of 'control' and weakening of the trade union movement...

There are other aspects of the proposed amendments that is good but we may discuss it later...One thing good is the change of law that allows a employee dismissed to remain member of the union. Now, when you are are no longer a member of the Union, so when the worker most need the Trade Union, he does not have the right as he is no longer a member -- And the Union, even if it wants to help find its difficult BUT in the amendment, one thing that happens  '...any workman who has been dismissed, discharged, retrenched, or has retired may be retained as a member of registered trade union subject to the rules of such trade union...' so, the Union can keep members who have been dismissed, retrench...and actively use its resources to fight for this worker????

What else is good???

Finally, the NEW ALTERNATIVE government will change things for workers and Trade Unions ... BUT then there is still so much more to be done to RESTORE worker and trade union rights in Malaysia..

The POWER of the Trade Union is the membership of workers, who are willing to fight the EMPLOYER to get better rights and better working conditions... 

Laws provide MINIMUM rights - but for a worker to get even better than minimum rights, the worker united through Trade Unions or otherwise must 'BATTLE' the employer into agreeing to give the workers even BETTER rights ... The biggest power that workers have is the power to campaign together and STRIKE > but alas Malaysian law still prevents the use of this power ... If you use legal mechanisms or the courts, you get only rights provided in law generally...i.e. minimum rights. BETTER RIGHTS only if the employer agrees... When Malaysia's contract doctors fought in the street, picket/strike...they won and got permanent positions...

The laws still must be amended to allow trade unions/workers to use their 'maximum power' to compel their employers to give better rights... 

There are some unions and others are protesting the multiplicity of unions at a workplace, etc  ...they have a right to their opinion, but I believe the amendment may be better for the workers...Will the fact that there are several unions at the workplace, for any particular sector/industry/occupation weaken the labour movement.... Well, ultimately, it is all up to the workers - they can reject all BUT one good union, or...we shall see...we shall see...

Did Malaysia do this on their own - or were they compelled by others to restore worker and trade union rights in Malaysia? 

See earlier posts:-

Bringing democracy into the labour movement(Malaysiakini) - Should we reject governments that do not care about private sector workers?

Worker and Trade Union Rights in BN-ruled Malaysia - A pro-business government that undermined worker rights, welfare and livelihood -

Malaysian Airlines - 99% person voted for NUFAM, but BAD law says still no union recognition?

Malaysian Airlines - Secret Ballot for Union Recognition after MAB fails to accord recognition to NUFAM?

Electronic Union win in 'Union Busting' Case against Renesas Semiconductor? HRD Wan Noorulazhar?


Wan Noorulazhar, HR Defender and Trade Union leader's trial starts (11-12 January 2016)

55 DAYS - DG of Industrial Relations inefficient or just delaying Unions in Malaysian Airlines?

67 Groups :- Government-Owned MAB, the new Malaysian Airlines Operator, Must Recognize Unions and Not Deny Freedom of Association.

New operator MAB must recognise unions (Malaysiakini)

SOCSO - Government decided workers' rep must end - let workers democratically choose their reps...

‘Wrongfully’ sacked workers union president turns to Suhakam for help(FMT,17/3/2017)

Anwar or Kedah? INFINEON past worker and union rights alleged violations remembered? 55 Groups - INFINEON MUST STOP UNION BUSTING AND..?



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