Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Malaysia:::Ministry tables eight amendments to Industrial Relations Act

KUALA LUMPUR : The Human Resources Ministry today tabled eight amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967 for first reading at the Dewan Rakyat.
"The amendments are part of the holistic review and in conformity to international standards in bringing transformation to the industrial relations landscape in the country," the ministry said in a statement.
The amendments, it said, were discussed at length with various stakeholders, and are in line with the Pakatan Harapan government's promise to enhance and improve workers' protection and to ensure workers' rights are at par with international standards.
Representations on Unfair Dismissals
A significant amendment proposed is for the repeal of the human resources minister's power to refer representations on dismissal cases to the Industrial Court. This power will instead be given to the Director-General for Industrial Relations in order to expedite the process.
Another change proposed is for cases that are not resolved through conciliation at the Department of Industrial Relations to be referred to the Industrial Court without further filtering.
Also, the employer or workman may be represented by any person of their choice, except lawyers, during the conciliation process at the Department of Industrial Relations.
Workman being under mental disability and not having a guardian may be represented by the next of kin at conciliation proceedings, subject to the approval of the High Court.
The proposed amendment will also enable the Industrial Court to make an award by not confining to the restrictions in the Second Schedule in the event the dismissal is due to union-busting.
It will also enable the minister to make an order to allow dismissed workman of any statutory authority to file a claim for unfair dismissal at the Department of Industrial Relations.
Appeal against Industrial Court Award to High Court
Another amendment proposed is to allow any person dissatisfied with an award of the Industrial Court to appeal to the High Court within 14 days from the date of the receipt of the award.
Enhancing the Recognition Process
The human resources minister's power to decide on matters relating to capacity and recognition issues involving trade unions is repealed under the amendments, and replaced by the Director-General for Industrial Relations in order to expedite the process.
"Currently, the recognition process involves two departments namely the Department of Industrial Relations and the Department of Trade Unions Affairs. With the proposed amendment, the recognition process will be under the purview of the Department of Industrial Relations only. This would expedite the process of recognition claim," the ministry said.
Sole Bargaining Rights
Another change is that, in line with the spirit of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948, the establishment of trade unions will no longer be confined to trade, industry or occupation.
"This would allow multiplicity of trade unions in an organization. Due to this, the provision on the application for sole bargaining rights is introduced to enable the workmen to choose the preferred trade unions in the event there are more than one recognized trade union representing the workmen.
"This will ensure only one trade union, which has obtained the highest number of votes, to have sole bargaining rights to represent workmen in collective bargaining," the ministry said.
Allowing Trade Union of Workmen to Raise Questions of General Character Relating to Management Prerogatives
The proposed amendment will allow trade union of workmen to raise questions of general character relating to transfers, employment, termination of services due to redundancy, dismissal and reinstatement and assignment or allocation of work. At present, the trade unions can only raise matters of general characters on promotion.
Introducing Exceptions Before Matters Relating to Collective Bargaining Referred to Industrial Court
It is also proposed that trade disputes relating to collective bargaining be only referred to Industrial Court with the consent of the parties.
The exception is that if the trade disputes relate to the first collective agreement or to any essential services specified in the First Schedule, or if the trade disputes would result in acute crisis if not resolved expeditiously, and if the parties to the trade disputes are not acting in the good faith to resolve the trade dispute expeditiously.
Imposition of Interest
A further amendment empowers the Industrial Court to impose interest at the rate of 8% per annum, or lesser rate as the court may direct.
Reducing the List of Essential Services
It is also proposed that the First Schedule of the Essential Services be replaced with the new schedule in line with international labour standards.
"Apart from these proposed amendments, the minister of human resources is also reviewing several other labour legislations including the Employment Act 1955 and Trade Unions Act 1959, which is expected to be tabled soon," the ministry said.

Low Wage And Impact On Workers

Low Wage And Impact On Workers

Except for a minister, the general public does not seem to subscribe to the argument that a family of 4 can survive on RM980.00 a month and yet be categorised as living out of poverty in Malaysia!

On this score let us stand clear of Bank Negara Malaysia's own input that workers of the country ought to be paid a living wage as opposed to the inadequate minimum wage of RM1100.00 a month. According to Bank Negara an individual, living in Kuala Lumpur, ought to be paid RM2700.00 a month to sustain himself. The said report also estimates that for a family of 4 the living wage ought to be about RM6500.00.

However, the reality is, that, the vast majority of workers are wallowing in the low and middle income trap as a consequence of  inequitable wages that does not commensurate with the existing cost of living indices. The polemics, as to why and what has been the undercurrent to such a situation, may well strecth from the issue of promoting Malaysia as a low wage nation to the suppression of decent wage growth on account of an influx of migrant workers and much more.

That, in  a nut-shell, is a manifestation of the weak economic position of the workers of the nation.

Consequentially, their contributions, to the Emplyees Provident Fund (EPF) the only source of a private sector workers' retirement plan, has been so much compromised that they do not have enough savings to sustain themselves after retirement at age 60.

The fact remains that more than 50% of EPF contributors do not have enough savings to sustain themselves after their retirement. Thus, one need not be a rocket scientist to conclude that the bottom 40, and to a large extend the middle 40, of the economically deprived segment of the country will be faced with 2 options upon retirement - one depend on social security, which is almost non-existence in our country, or continue to seek employment albeit at low paying jobs at the dictum of uncaring employers! Sadly, in the second option retired citizens would continue to meet the nation's manpower needs but at subsistence income levels!

Thus, what are the alternatives that can, at the least, mitigate the situation?

It is my view that the following proactive initiatives ought to considered by the government:-

1. that a living wage, as so recommended by Bank Negara, be adpoted as the basis of wage fixation so that workers are paid a decent living wage that would reflect the actual cost of living factors;

2. that employers' contribution, to the  EPF,  be set at a much more appropriate rate so that private sector workers savings would be sufficient to meet their post retirement living expenses;

3. that, having regards to the higher life expectantcy of Malaysians, the retirement age be revised to 65 years at the least so as to keep them in gainful employment; and

4. that, a comprehensive social security net, giving priority to health care protection for treatment of chronic health conditions such as kidney ailments, cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheiner, stroke etc, be formulated as the fact remains that our country is heading towards an ageing soceity.

It is no-gain saying that the working citizenry of the nation are the most margainlised segment of the population. That, sadly, is despite the indisputable reality that the nation's growth, economically or otherwise, was on the back of the blood, sweat and lives lost of the working class!

Thus, it is my contention that the government is under an obligation to commence restitutional reforms to address the plight of the workers - from wage reforms to a holistic reform to the obnoxious labour laws that has impeded the development of a vibrant workers' movement etc, etc. Such reforms, so implicitly assured by the Pakatan Harapan government, ought to be realised without procrastination as the issues, confronting the working population, are real and not an illusion!

Opinion Piece By:-

MTUC Penang Division
016 4184520