Bank employees call for Bank Muamalat, Alliance Bank to be penalised for union-busting

In a landmark judgment July 10, 2019, the Federal Court ruled that Bank Muamalat and Alliance Bank were guilty of union-busting tactics. — File pic
In a landmark judgment July 10, 2019, the Federal Court ruled that Bank Muamalat and Alliance Bank were guilty of union-busting tactics. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 13 — The National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) has called for Bank Muamalat and Alliance Bank to be penalised by banking regulators following the Federal Court’s ruling that the two banks were guilty of union-busting tactics.

NUBE general-secretary J. Solomon said in a press statement that the right to association is a fundamental right which employers are under a duty to respect, promote, protect and facilitate the “effective exercise” of the right.

“Any attempt to dilute the strength of trade unions by disguised promotions threatens the workers’ right to be part of organisations established to organise and further their interests through collective bargaining.

“The two banks in question here should also be called out and penalised by the regulators for their conduct in this affair,” he said referring to the ruling made by the panel of five judges made up of Datuk Rohana Yusuf, Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh, Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Tan Sri Idrus Harun and Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan.

In a landmark judgment on Wednesday, the Federal Court ruled that the two banks were guilty of union busting tactics by promoting workers without giving them any “real” executive powers as implied in their appointment letters.

In NUBE’s resounding victory, all five federal court judges agreed with the findings of the lower courts that Bank Muamalat and Alliance Banks had “promoted” clerical staff to executives merely to exclude them from being part of NUBE.

In actual fact, the Federal Court said, the staff were never given any significant executive powers or duties befitting their new positions but were merely performing the same job as before.

The decision was a culmination of a seven-year court battle which saw the justices dismissing the banks’ appeals and instructing them to pay costs.

In the statement, NUBE lawyer Edmund Bon said the groundbreaking ruling would be applicable in all other sectors and industries.

“It is significant that after Director General of Industrial Relations had decided for NUBE, all three courts that heard the appeals from the banks had ruled that this was a case of disguised promotion aimed at depriving them of NUBE membership.

“It wasn’t just one but all courts agreed with NUBE,” he said.

Malaysia has ratified the International Labour Organisation’s Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98) which it was obliged to follow.

The Convention states that workers shall enjoy adequate protection against acts of anti-union discrimination in respect of their employment.

The bank employees union had also called for all employers and businesses to conduct itself based on the commitment Malaysia has made.

It also said the government should implement new protective measures to better regulate anti-union activities being practiced by employers.

Solomon added that the proposed National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights should include mandatory provisions amounting to enhanced obligations on businesses to respect the right to association protected under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

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