WORKERS ARE WORST OFF IN MALAYSIA
The recent clustering of Malaysia under the rating code of five, by the International Trade Union confederation (ITUC) does not bode well for the welfare and safety of 12.9 million workers.
The ITUC reports that countries with the rating of five are the worst countries in the world to work in.
It means the legislation may allow certain rights, but workers have effectively no access to them and are exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labour practices.
The Survey used indicators to measure fundamental civil liberties, the right to establish or join unions, trade union activities, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike.
The deteriorated worker’s right was detected by the indicators and grouped Malaysia in the bottom rating of five together with another 23 countries.
Only a fraction belong to unions
The fact that only 6.44% of workers i.e. 79,8941 out of 12.4 million workers are members of trade unions speaks volumes about the decline in collective bargaining of workers.
The ruling elitist government was never pro workers but were always supportive and siding employers.
Labour laws were amended in 2012 to allow sub-contractors to employ workers for hire in factories and officers.
Minimum wages was implemented only in 2012 after the opposition included it in their manifesto but is still not fully implemented.
The Malaysian government has created structural barriers to diminish the influence of unions and treated workers as just another commodity to promote trade and foreign investments.
The Malaysian government viewed the National trade Unions as pro opposition and independent from their sphere of influence.
The government has slowly brought in laws and amendments to existing laws to weaken trade unions and suppress unionism.
National Unions were restricted and constricted to function as NGOs to liaise matters between employers and the workman.
The formation of in-house unions was promoted disabling national unions to influence national labor policies. In-house union leaders are easily controlled by the employers.
The departments of trade union affairs and industrial affairs under the Human Resources Ministry was empowered with stifling laws to make unions toe their line, effectively curtailing union activities and programmes and fund raising activities and promote in-house unions.
MTUC leaders and trade unionists had contested in elections and made it to parliament but it has become a thing of the past.
Tangoing to the tune of MNCs
The BN government infiltrates national trade unions and makes sure that the unions toe their line thus weakening worker’s collective bargaining mechanism.
In embracing globalization and Free trade agreements and the growth in neoliberal pro-market, reforms the Malaysian government weakened and paralyzed collective representation of labour.
Malaysian unionists used to complain that worker’s rights were curbed and tightened further every time there is global crisis such 9/11 or a global economic slowdown.
So much, so trade unions have little influence in formulation and amendment of labor laws and human resource management practices.
The government went out of the way to maintain vigilance and control over the labor movements to please MNCs and FDIs in the name of steady growth and economic sustainability.
The influx of about 4 million legal and illegal unskilled workers has increased the presence of non-unionized workforce unorganized.
Agents who recruit foreign workers get permits as political favours and not because of the need for such workers.
FDIs and MNCs very often lobby with the government to support short-term contract employment, temporary and casual employees at workplaces derailing collective agreements and organizing labour force.
Malaysia is among those countries that still have not ratified ILO convention 87, which outlines the freedom of association and the right to organize.
Workers have become less organized and more vulnerable to the autocratic decisions of employers and government.
Malaysia is also well known as transit point for human trafficking.
Malaysia needs to take more pro-active decisions to reinstate worker’s rights and human rights to avoid more blacklist and downward rating.
Reducing foreign workers inflow, allowing more democratic space for labour movements and effective combating of human trafficking will help redeem the down rating.
In the latest World Press Freedom index, Malaysia has hit an historic low ranking of 147 out of 180 countries.
The government has lots to catch up and set right what went wrong in the past, actions and inactions.