MTUC Organizes National Action Against New Labour Amendments

The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) has pledged to continue fighting against the government’s amendments, which it labels as a “return to slavery”, that were passed in early October. The MTUC called for actions on November 3rd at 20 sites across Malaysia, building on the October 3rd actions that were attended by hundreds of workers. The actions brought workers out onto the streets to pressure the government and show the widespread discontent with the new law.

The MTUC has aired concerns that the new laws will give the “green light to investors to hire contract workers instead of permanent workers” and that the practical implications of the amendments will be to reduce trade unionism and the ability for workers to bargain collectively. Despite previous assurances from the government that there would be extensive debate and negotiation on the content and implementation of the bill, it was rushed through Parliament with only 5 hours debate, three days after the government stated it would delay the introduction of the bill until November.

The actions of the Malaysian government have raised concerns about their good-faith engagement with Malaysia’s workers and the trade union movement. With the mass action scheduled to go ahead on November 3rd there are hopes that the government will back down and introduce fairer and more reasonable labour laws.

Workers gathered in front of the Transport Workers Union building in Petaling Jaya as part of a nationwide picket.

The picket started promptly at 5pm as scheduled.

Led by MTUC secretary-general Abdul Halim Mansor, the crowd who were holding up banners and placards chanted "Tarik Balik" (Repeal the amendments) to honks of support from passing motorists.

The placards bore slogans like "Hidup Pekerja" (long live employees) and "Jangan lupa pekerja swasta, pengundi terbesar" (don't forget that private sector workers are the majority voters).

When met by reporters, Abdul Halim said: "We are desperate because MTUC has held 18 meetings with the Human Resource Ministry over the amendments, but no action was taken.

MTUC objects to the amendments which would allow for the use of labour outsourcing companies. The amendments would also mean that employers were allowed to delay overtime payments to their workers by a month.

"MTUC will not let the matter rest until the amendments are repealed," he said adding that the congress would take it up to the International Labour Organisation if it has to.