Perak incident prompts call for reforms to protect workers

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PETALING JAYA: A trade union and an employer’s body have called for legal and internal corporate reforms to provide mistreated employees with better avenues for recourse.

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J Solomon, secretary-general of the National Union of Bank Employees, said Malaysian laws were not pro-worker, and Shamsuddin Bardan, executive director of the Malaysian Employers Federation, said managements needed to quickly attend to claims of abuse.

They were commenting on a report last week that a man in Perak who had been sacked had crashed his car into a section of his former employer’s premises and hurled a Molotov cocktail into the management office. He was afterwards killed by a lorry while crossing the road.

In a video he made before the incident, the man said he had been accused of having “performance issues” without being presented with evidence and also claimed he had filed a police report that detailed racism at the company. He said these factors had brought him stress to the point of requiring medication.

Solomon told FMT the incident was emblematic of failed employment laws in Malaysia. He pointed out that workers at the management level and above were ineligible for union membership and said this gave them few means of protection.

“It is simple logic that anyone having a problem should have adequate avenues for redress,” he said. “A worker like the one in Perak should be able to have the protection of a union and to take matters up to the industrial court if necessary.”

He said the human resources ministry could “not continue to be a bystander” and must amend the labour laws to be in line with Convention 98 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which gives all workers the right to organise and collectively bargain.

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Malaysia ratified the convention in 1961, but Solomon noted that the relevant changes to local laws had yet to be made.

“Malaysian law by design disadvantages most of the workers who would be considered management,” he said. “This is against the convention. The ILO Committee of Experts has reminded the government many times to change the law.”

He also called for “an independent body with authority and legal effect” to be established so that workers at all levels could file grievances if they felt they were being mistreated,

Shamsuddin said companies needed to do a better job of ensuring there was internal oversight over claims of workplace abuse.

He told FMT this would involve not only drafting comprehensive internal policies on employee relations, but also the inclusion of a mechanism to allow for appeals to go to an internal oversight body.

“Once such an oversight body is established, employees would be required to exhaust all the internal mechanisms before filing a report with the authorities,” he said.

He also recommended the establishment of consultative committees made up of management and worker representatives to resolve matters brought to them to “minimise and eventually eliminate” instances of employee mistreatment. – FMT

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