KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 — The Malaysian Trade Unions Congress (MTUC) today accused Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran of being “militant” and “arrogant” in his approach to the labour law amendments that were approved by the Dewan Rakyat recently.
In a sharply-worded statement, MTUC claimed Kulasegaran had refused to allow the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) to discuss and reach joint solutions on the proposed amendments to the Industrial Relations Act (IRA), a promise which MTUC said Kulasegaran failed to uphold.
“The minister has taken a very arrogant and militant-like approach in dealing with our basic complaint, in that he refused to allow the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) to discuss and reach joint solutions on the proposed amendments to the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) before tabling them in Parliament,” the statement read.
“He (Kulasegaran) did not allow the NLAC to discuss and reach a joint solution to the amendments of the IRA; hence, his claim that his ministry had effectively engaged the MTUC and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), the two main constituents of the NLAC, is false and misleading.
“We regret that the honourable minister has conveniently forgotten his own pledge to have the NLAC and its technical committee deliberate on the proposed amendments and reach a consensus before they are submitted to the attorney general and final reading in Parliament,” MTUC added.
Yesterday the Human Resources Ministry (MOHR) denied claims by MTUC and the employers’ group that they were not consulted over the labour law amendments approved by Parliament.
MOHR said its officials from the Department of Industrial Relations and Department of Trade Unions had also taken part in dialogues organised by MTUC to explain the proposed amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967 (Act 177) and the Trade Unions Act 1959, as well as obtain the necessary feedback.
The ministry also pointed out that it did not need the “endorsement” of the groups, adding that it had held nine meetings with them under the NLAC this year alone to discuss various issues, including amendments to labour laws.
Explaining further, MTUC said while Kulasegaran’s stand was that the ministry was not duty-bound to get any form of endorsement from the NLAC as the International Labour Organisation Convention 144 on Tripartite Consultant (C144), such social dialogues must also be “effective and meaningful”.
In other words, MTUC said the social partners should be given equal footing in decision-making with the government.
“Our stand is that the NLAC was never used as an effective forum of consultation on the labour law reforms as intended by C144.
“We also stand by our statement that the minister undermined the NLAC and unilaterally handed a set of bad laws to Parliament for approval on October 7 and 9,” MTUC said, adding such attempts only hardened its resolve to engage with Dewan Negara senators to return the IRA amendments to the NLAC.
MTUC then accused Kulasegaran of issuing misleading statements and failing to respond to its demand that the minutes of the NLAC meeting are made public.
“By making public the minutes, or at least providing the media access to them, the public can easily judge if indeed ‘effective and meaningful’ consultations were carried out by MOHR in accordance with C144, which the ministry refers to.
“All the spin put on the various statements churned out by Kulasegaran and his officials have failed to debunk this,” it said.
The nation’s largest labour movement also said proposed law amendments did not reflect the wishes or aspirations of its respective members and affiliates.
“Some of the amendments will also lead to disharmony among unions and cause chaos in the companies which forsake the rights of workers to pursue collective agreements with employers effectively,” it said.