LETTER | The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) wishes to congratulate M Saravanan on his appointment as the new Human Resources minister and Haji Awang Hashim as the deputy minister under the stewardship of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
We wish to bring to his attention that his ride is not going to be an easy one given the current circumstances where workers in all sectors have been hard hit by the Covid-19 virus which is wreaking havoc around the globe.
We believe his past experience in the government will enable him to understand how the government system works. In this context, we urge the minister to stop the excessive politicking which had plagued the ministry during the tenure of his predecessor. We hope he starts looking after the needs of workers and their families immediately.
We are confident that Saravanan will acknowledge that it's the workers who helped build this nation and yet many of them remain poor with meagre incomes and little savings for their old age. We hope the minister will stop all forms of abuses and bullying by irresponsible employers and agencies on workers.
It is vital for Saravanan to first know that the relationship between the MTUC and the previous minister had hit rock bottom towards the last few months of his tenure, mainly as a result of the latter bulldozing the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) amendments without consulting the stakeholders and the failure to respect the significant role of the tripartite partners.
The previous minister had pushed through bad laws, particularly when amending the IRA. He failed to consult the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) where the MTUC and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) are represented. On numerous occasions, he ignored the spirit of tripartism as contained in the International Labour Organization (ILO) charter and attempted to dilute the role and responsibility of the MTUC.
Several changes to the IRA advocated by the previous Minister that were rushed through Parliament last October will lead to union-busting and weaken Malaysian unions.
As such, one of MTUC’s first requests to the new government is to repeal or send back the IRA amendments for a review as they are poised to weaken unionism in Malaysia.
We also wish to draw the attention of the new minister on the tough times being faced by workers and the looming possibility of more job losses and retrenchments down the road. The former Minister has compromised with the employers and failed to protect the workers' rights in carrying out their activities.
In this context, we hope the new Human Resources minister will ensure the rights of workers and unions are always upheld. We need someone who can empathise with the plight of the downtrodden workers who are struggling to make ends meet and bridge the widening income equality.
As a first gesture that would warm the hearts of Malaysians and endear them to the rakyat, we call upon the minister to extend the monthly Family Cost of Living Allowance (Cola) in the civil service to all private-sector workers in the B40 and M40 group. These workers are struggling for survival in dealing with the ever-rising family cost of living.
We hope the minister will focus on developing a competent, productive, responsive and resilient human capital in the labour market to increase the national productivity. In addition, he must ensure harmonious and conducive industrial relations by listening to unions and be progressive in nature.
In conclusion, MTUC pledges to give full cooperation to the new minister under the leadership of Muhyiddin in any endeavour that will lessen the financial burden of the workers and ensure their job security as well as to help boost the country’s economy.
The writer is the secretary-general of MTUC.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.