Sunday, December 20, 2020

TOP GLOVE :::The Death Of Yam Narayan Chaudhary And The Underlying Issues.

 Press Release By The Malaysian Trades Union Congress, Penang Division - The Death Of Yam Narayan Chaudhary And The Underlying Issues.


Yam Narayan Chaudhary, in our view, is a victim of the unacceptable working conditions under which migrant workers toil to eke out a living. Prolonged hours of work, coupled with a neglect of decent living conditions, thus, exposing migrant workers not only to infection of the  Covid-19 virus but other communicable infections, probably, has to be the underlying factor for his death.


He was employed as a security guard in Top Glove. It has been reported that, due to the absence of thermal scanners, security guards, like the late Yam Narayan Chaudhary, had their work load increased. Without speculating, as to why the lack of thermal scanners, we are inclined to conclude that the company had neglected it's duty of care in the matter. 


Having registered the single largest Covid-19 cluster, the Teratai cluster that has been attributed to cramped dormitories, it would have been expected of the  company to implement all reasonable precautionary measures to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Sadly, that seems to be the down side in the circumstances.


According to the Director-General of the Ministry Of Health, Yam Narayan Chaudhary, was brought to the hospital with category 4-5  condition described as pneumonia with lung fibrosis. On this issue what needs to be addressed is why such an inordinate delay in  sending him for medical attention? It is our view that the company has to be held accountable on the issue as they are vicariously liable in the matter. 


It may well be argued that the death, of Yam Narayan Chaudhary, is an isolated case but to us it is a wake-up call for all employers. Employers, so much as they are in pursuit of enhancing out-put, cannot abrogate their responsibilities in providing a safe system of work. And, by extension, conducive living conditions as dictated by internationally accepted standards and the Workers' Minimum Standards Of Housing And Amenities Act, 1990. 


Migrant workers' activist, trade unions and concerned civil society organisations have been advocating for fair wages, safe working conditions and decent housing of workers, even before the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. That legitimate demands were never heeded by the government or the employers. On the contrary such advocates were tagged as "trouble makers"! Having regards to the prevailing state of affairs such advocacy was never misplaced! 


It is, thus, our demand that both the government and employers discard the primitive notion that workers are a mere component of the means of production. It is also our contention that workers should not be "dehumanised" on account of maximising profits unless both the government, and employers, elect to stand accused of being modern day slave masters!


To the family of Yam Narayan Chaudhary MTUC Penang Division extends our heartfelt condolences. May his soul rest in peace in the arms of God almighty.


K. Veeriah 

Secretary 

MTUC Penang Division

016 4184520

17.12.2020

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Workers' Minimum Standards Of Housing And Amenities Act 1990 And Deplorable Living Conditions

 Workers' Minimum Standards Of Housing And Amenities Act 1990 And Deplorable Living Conditions 


After visiting the Top Glove migrant workers dormitories, the Minister Of Human Resources is reported to have said that he found it deplorable. If that be the case, in the  the world's largest manufacturer of rubber gloves, we are left wondering whether that would be the state of affairs in all other sectors that depends on migrant workers to roll-out production.


MTUC Penang Division wishes to commend the Minister's statement that, the entire labour department's resources would be mobilised to investigate the matter.


So much as we appreciate the Minister's concerns what needs to be postulated is whether his ministry would also adopt the same approach in all other sectors be it manufacturing, plantation or construction. 


Though, the Workers' Minimum Standards Of Housing And Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446), has been around for a long time it is sad that the government has only recognised it's usefulness in reference to the Top Glove Teratai Covid-19 cluster. The announcement, by the  senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakop, that the said Act would be enforced immediately is a manifestation of a knee jerk political response whilst the said law ought to have been enforced much, much earlier. 


Clearly, the Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed the concerns of trade unions, and activist, of the unacceptable living conditions provided to migrant workers. When such concerns were, then, raised by activist we were accused of peddling half truths or, worst still, down right lies. 


Now that, the Human Resources Minister has seen it for himself, we hope that affirmative action would be forthcoming without fear or favour irregardless of the clout that big corporations so yield. The Honourable Minister's pronouncement should not, we hope, be another public relations exercise - all full of sound and fury but signifying nothing!


In conclusion we also call upon the government to pay attention to the living conditions of the undocumented migrant workers and domestic workers who have not being given due recognition to their contributions in sustaining economic activities of the nation. They remain ostracised only on account of their non-documented status. And, in the case of domestic workers, their exclusion from protection under the prevailing legal framework. 


Though, that be the case there is no justification for the government to deny them their basic right to acceptable living conditions, access to health care and social security protection.


Our nation cannot lay claim, to being part of the international community, if it abrogates it's moral obligations to the millions of non-documented migrant workers who have been toiling to sustain the country's economic transformation. They, too, are an integral composition of the nation's economic endeavours and, as such, ought to be accorded due recognition per se. 


K. Veeriah

Secretary 

Malaysian Trades Union Congress 

Penang Division 

016 4184520

2.12.2020

Monday, November 30, 2020

Will The 2021 Budget Be Defeated?

 Will The 2021 Budget Be Defeated?


Tabling a national budget is but a circus act. As in the travelling company of acrobats, clowns, jugglers, magicians etc the ring master takes center stage. And, during the entire performance, he has to keep the audience captivated to the multi talents that are on show. He, however, is but a mere show-man executing the choreography designed by others.


That, obviously, has been the role of our Finance Minster!


 Listening to the Finance Minster tabling the 2021 budget I was reminded of his role as a ring master - a show-man acting out the choreography so scripted by the politicians to whom he was beholden.


To me he failed as an acrobat, a juggler, a magician as the budget he tabled lacked the depth of diversity, inclusiveness and objectivity so required especially so when the nation is under siege from the Covid-19 pandemic.


Take his magical act of allowing workers to dip into their old age retirement funds, the EPF.


 Going by the EPF's own disclosure a vast majority of contributors would not have adequate savings to sustain themselves post retirement. Inspite of such a reality he elected to pull the rabbit out of his hat to, magically, claim that the government has extended financial assistance to the most margainlised segment of society. That, in my view, is the most disgusting rabbit-out-of-the hat act ever! 


His juggling, in the allocation to race based affirmative action, is but a disaster! This winded-up ring master as he is, played race and religious centric politics in depositing billions to the benefit of a selective community whilst handing out pittance to others. On this score, too, he ought to stand labelled as a clown of the first order. 


Whilst the B40 and M40 citizens are facing the reality of either no sustainable disposal income or a very much reduced one, this clown deems it fit to not to extend a blanket marotorium on loans. His magical formula, in a nutshell, is if you want an extension, you sort it out with the financial institution!


Under relentless pressure, from both side of the political divide, this lackadaisical ring master resorted to  goodies from thin air - say RM50.00 more here, there and everywhere without so much as an explanation as to how the sum total of the tabled budget would be re-calibarated.


Whilst he kept to the choreographed script, in announcing one-off incentive to the frontliners involved in the Covid-19 pandemic, his juggling act found no traction in the case of the out-sourced workers who are also involved in the front line in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. 


Insipte of his bungling acts, as a juggler, an acrobat, a magician, a trapeze artist and an incompetent ring master he was left of the hook by the headless horsemen (remember  "The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow") in the opposition at the policy stage of the budget.


What ought to be intriguing is whether the outrageous, monolithic and discriminatory 2021 budget would be passed by parliament. That is, of course, left to the wisdom of our Members Of Parliament including our opposition.


In the circus the most anticipated act is when a lone man handles the lions and tigers and safely too. That act would bring down the curtains. And, without fail the cats  put up an awesome show. Thus, it would be interesting to see whether our opposition  "big cats" maul the trainer or roll over at the sound of his whip! 


Let's wait for the show to end!


Opinion piece:-


K. Veeriah

24, Jalan Goh Swee Huat 

Taman Bukit 

14000 Bukit Mertajam 

016 4184520

30.11.2020

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Malaysian union victorious after seven year battle over unfair dismissals | IndustriALL

Malaysian union victorious after seven year battle over unfair dismissals | IndustriALL: The National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW) has emerged victorious after seven years of legal battles fighting the unfair dismissal of 18 members for exercising their political rights.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Explosion At Ann Joo Steel Prai





Press Release By Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Penang Division - Explosion At Ann Joo Steel Prai

We, in MTUC Penang Division, are given to understand that an explosion occurred in Ann Joo Steel Berhad (formerly known as Malayawata Steel) situated in Prai this evening 20.10.2020. We are also given to understand that the said explosion happened at the company's steel making plant 2 (SMP2) and, that, there were no fatalities except for a few workers having sustained injuries. 

Having regards, to the said incident, we call upon the Department Of Safety And Health (DOSH), to undertake not only an indepth investigations in the matter but a comprehensive audit of the said company's safety standards.

In our view industrial mishaps occur, more often than not, on account of the lapses in adherence to acceptable safety standards. In our view such an explosion should not have happened if all pertinent safety measures had been adhered to. In any case employers are, vicariously, obligated to ensure the safety of their workers. Thus, we call upon the authorities to determine whether the company had complied with its inherent duty of care in the matter. And, if it be so ascertained that there was a case of a breach of the said duty of care, then, appropriate cause of action be instituted against the company. 


K. Veeriah 
Secretary 
Malaysian Trades Union Congress, Penang 
0164184520
20.10.2020


Sunday, November 3, 2019

Transform The Industrial Relations Eco-system!

Press Release From MTUC Penang Division - Transform The Industrial Relations Eco-system!

The Human Resources Ministry's recent press release, stating that the MTUC was never sidelined in respect of the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act, 1967, makes reference to the following matters:-

1. that, a total of 10 National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) meetings were convened in 2019;

2. that, technical committees were constituted to deliberate on the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act, 1967; and

3. that, the MTUC was a party to all deliberations at both the NLAC and its technical committees.

We, in MTUC Penang Division, take cognisance of the above stated matters but are puzzled if that, in itself, tantamounts to MTUC's consensus to the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967 so tabled by the Minister and passed by parliment.

On the above said matters we have been given to understand that there were no agreement at the NLAC and that the deliberations, at the technical committees, was ongoing when the amendments were tabled in parliment.

Whether the said amendments are positioned to confirm to  international labour standards is not the issue. What is pertinent, in our view, is whether the Pakatan Harapan government is beholden to an affirmative course of action to transform the industrial relations eco-system that has all the time favoured the empoyers/business class.

Recalibirating existing labour laws would only serve the purpose of compromises between the opposing forces but a transformation of the industrial relations eco-system without the shackles of legislative interferences, in our view, would enable the trade union movement to function as an effective socio-economic agent of change to the landscape of the working population of the nation.

Whilst the Ministry appears to champion international labour standards we find it unacceptable that ILO Convention 87, on the freedom of association and the protection to organise, is yet to be ratified by the government.

Under such circumstances we would urge the government not only to ratify ILO Convention 87 but also to remove all legislative obstacles that impedes, retards and/or encroaches into the realms of an independent trade union movement.

K.Veeriah
Secretary
MTUC Penang Division
016 4184520
3.11.2019

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Press Release - Minimum Wage vs. Living Wage

MTUC Penang Division wishes to record its appreciation to Dr. Yeah Kim Leng of Sunway university for his statement that, a minimum wage of RM1200.00 as announced in the 2020 budget, was inadequate for an individual working in the Klang valley. We also appauld his views that a living wage i.e. sufficient income to meet the basic economic necessities of a worker as opposed to a minimum wage, be an appropriate measurement of wages.

(See FMT 28.10.2019)

We, in MTUC Penang Division had, as early as 8.12.2018, called upon the government to migrant from the minimum wage module to that of a living wage.

(See FMT 8.12.2018 "Have a living wage instead of minimum wage").

When we made that call, then, it was in the context of workers having to work excessive hours, including overtime (upto the legally permitted 104 hours a month!) work on rest days, public holidays and even taking on a second source of income to ensure sufficient earnings to meet the economic pressures of the ever escalting cost of living. Thus, we find it refreshing that our position, in the matter, has been vindicated from an economist consideration in the matter.

Though Dr. Yeah's point of reference was of an individual living, and working in the Klang valley, we are of the view the situation would be about the same outside the Klang valley as well. Cost, of basic essential goods and services  say, rice, cooking oil, petrol, gas, flour, fish, vegetable, lentils, electricity rates, toll etc etc being uniform throughout the country workers, by and large, wallow in the vicious low and middle income trap as a consequence of inequitable wages.

The fact, that, wage adjustments even by the Industrial Court, has been pegged to a distorted Consumer Price Index (CPI) inspite of the glaring mis-match to purchasing power parity, ought to hasten, in our view, a re-constituted approach to wage fixation in the country. We are convinced that the only progressive path is to embark on a living wage, as opposed to a minimum wage, policy.

In conclusion it is our view that, working excessive hours of work and seeking supplementary source of income, would, inevitably, result in the deterioation of workers' physical and mental health - an invisible loss of productivity and higher medical cost for employers and the nation which could be avoided by ensuring workers' a living wage.

K.Veeriah
Secretary MTUC Penang Division
016 4184520
29.10.2019