Friday, December 11, 2009

MTUC: End Discrimination Against Workers and Unions in Malaysia Repeal anti-union section 26(1A) of the Trade Unions Act 1959

Media Statement – 11/12/2009

End Discrimination Against Workers and Unions in Malaysia

Repeal anti-union section 26(1A) of the Trade Unions Act 1959

On the occasion of the United Nations' (UN) Human Rights Day, this is annually observed on December 10 to mark the anniversary of the presentation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) calls for a greater recognition and respect of workers’ rights in Malaysia. This year the theme determined by the United Nations is non-discrimination.

MTUC specifically calls for an end of all forms of discrimination of workers in Malaysia.

Unions are essential for the promotion and protection of rights of workers, especially in the struggle for justice against the employer. Workers standing together as a union are less likely to be taken advantage and/or exploited by their employers. The right to unionize is specifically provided for in Atricle 23(4) specifically provides that ‘(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.’

One of the reason for this state of affairs is the Malaysian government, that has been more pro-business and hence have not actively encouraged and promoted unions in Malaysia. As an example, we have section 26(1A) of the Trade Unions Act 1959, which states, “No person shall join, or be a member of, or be accepted or retained as a member by, any trade union if he is not employed or engaged in any establishment, trade, occupation or industry in respect of which the trade union is registered…”. Workers join unions so that they can be protected by their unions when their rights are violated by their employers. This provision automatically deprives the worker the assistance and benefits of being a union member when the worker’s most fundamental right has been violated, that is the worker’s right to employment with the particular employer. This provision also impedes unions from continuing to fight for the wrongfully dismissed worker. It is provision that certainly does not promote unions, or the need to form and join unions. MTUC reiterates its call for the immediate repeal of section 26(1A) of the Trade Unions Act 1959.

Malaysia must stop discriminating against workers in favour of employers, and should actively promote unions at every workplace. This should be a key objective of the Malaysian government to ensure that human rights of all workers are protected.

MTUC also calls for an end of discrimination of workers, based on whether they are public servants or workers in private companies. For workers in the public sector, the Malaysian government has a lot of benefits including free healthcare. As an example, public servants and their dependents enjoy free heart healthcare at the National Heart Institute (Institut Jantung Negara – IJN), whilst other workers will have to pay astronomical sums, which many a time is beyond the worker’s means, to get the necessary heart healthcare at the Malaysian government heart institute. Malaysia should ensure that all workers, in fact all persons in Malaysia, are entitled to free universal healthcare and other essential benefits.

MTUC also calls for the end of all forms of discrimination against all workers in Malaysia, be they local or migrant, documented or undocumented.

MTUC calls for an end of discrimination of workers currently being practiced based on whether they are workers in public sectors or private sectors.

MTUC calls for equal rights for all workers, and the repeal of Item 2 of Schedule 2 of the Employment Act 1955, that currently denies basic worker rights for some classes of workers including domestic workers.

MTUC calls for an end of the pro-business pro employer policies and stance of the Malaysian government, and for the Malaysian government to adopt a pro worker pro union position that will necessarily benefit the majority of workers in Malaysia and their dependents, and necessarily balance out the effect of past discrimination against workers.

Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud,
Malaysian Trades Union Congress
Subang Jaya, 11/12/2009