Malaysia: 'Draconian, oppressive' amendments to labour law

PSM secretary-general S. Arutchelvan addresses the October 1, press conference. Video journalist: Hisyam Salleh.

By Philip Ho

Kuala Lumpur, October 1 -- klik4Malaysia -- Socialist Party of Malaysia (Parti Sosialis Malaysia, PSM) secretary-general S. Arutchelvan called the proposed labour law review by the Malaysian government's Human Resources Ministry, which will be tabled in the coming parliament sitting, "draconian" as it practically destroys whatever remaining rights workers have left.

"This is the worse amendment in 40 years", he told reporters at a press conference earlier on October 1. Arutchelvan was joined by representatives from Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), Bar Council, Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT) and also Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM).

According to Arutchelvan, the Human Resources Ministry has proposed a new category of employers that is made up of subcontractors and employers would have to go through these subcontractors for labour supply while the workers would have to go through the subcontractors for job placements.

"Employers do not even have to worry about firing workers. The subcontractors do the dirty work for them", Arutchelvan said. "Workers also cannot take the employers to the Industrial Court because they were employed by subcontractors."

"This amendment will kill [workers'] unions and destroy job security which is the basic right of everyone", Arutchelvan said, adding that only 8% of the workers are unionised and that the amendments would signal the end of unions.

He then questioned Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's "1 Malaysia" campaign of "people first, performance now" as the government has been dragging its feet on requests by the workers regarding the retrenchment fund, minimum wage and Automatic registration of trade unions.

"This issue has been pending for 10 years", he added, saying that the Human Resources Ministry has done nothing to alleviate the financial status of some 1.3 million workers who earn less than RM700 a month. "Some only earn about RM350 ... They can only earn more if they work overtime and that is around RM900", he said.

According to Arutchelvan, the ministry had known about this situation in addition to a study by World Bank that showed Malaysia's wage trend had recorded a growth of 2.6% annually for the last 10 years, which is lower than the inflation rate. He expressed his disappointment that the ministry was further adding to the woes of the workers as the proposed amendments to the labour law would take away from the workers and giving it to the employers.

When asked what would be the ideal range of minimum wage so that workers would no longer have to work double shifts to make ends meet, Arutchelvan replied that the PSM would be very happy if the government would honour their promise of RM1500 per month.

"I think it is impossible to go beyond that, knowing our government," he laughed.

Arutchelvan then reiterated PSM's stand against the ministry's proposed amendments. "We want the government to stop all amendments to the labour law."

Meanwhile, V. Selvam from the PSM alleged that the ministry had carried out a nationwide study regarding the wages of workers back in 2005-2006 but have since "buried" the reports.

"The reports were buried... nothing was heard about it anymore... suddenly the ministry proposed to setup a minimum wage council for security guards. Even then, the ministry suspended the implementation that was supposed to happen in July this year.

"Prior to that, the ministry also commissioned University of Malaya (UM) to conduct a nationwide research for the minimum wage of plantation workers back in year 2000 but no action was taken," he told K4M in an exclusive interview.

According to Selvam, the study conducted by UM revealed that even in the year 2000, plantation workers would have needed at least RM2000 a month to survive.

[Visit the Socialist Party of Malaysia's website HERE.]

Submitted by Arjunan (not verified) on Sun, 10/10/2010 - 04:06


As a Industrial Relations practioner, I quite agree with the insinuation that Malaysian labour legislations are very draconian and oppresive in nature, the government is very expedient in drafting labour laws which does not up grade the morale of the workers, rather it provides more avenue to the capitialist investors to further exploit them, by introducing new laws which main intention is to deprive the workers of their rights.

Therefore, there is need today to join forces with similar groups of interest to help up lift the welfare and the morale of the working population and ensure their security of employment,because many workers are employed by out-sourced agency hence there is no fixed term contract and are at the mercy of the agency. In Solidarity ..............long live the workers!!!!!!!