Trade union groups slam govt for backtracking on labour laws

National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers general secretary N Gopal Kisham.

PETALING JAYA: Trade union groups and NGOs have voiced dissatisfaction with Putrajaya’s move to backtrack several labour laws found in initial amendments made to the Employment Act last September.

The Decent Working Group, which comprises 55 trade unions and NGOs, said the present amendments by the human resources ministry are contrary to Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) manifesto pledge to improve the lives of the working class.

One of the group’s members, National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers general secretary N Gopal Kisham, said they are disappointed with the ministry for not acknowledging and responding to their proposals.

“Where is the consultation? We submitted a comprehensive set of proposals to the ministry but there has been no response.

“This is not the Malaysia Baru that was promised by the PH government,” he said at a press conference here today.

Gopal gave the example of weekly working hours which the ministry had proposed be reduced from 48 to 44, also a practice in other Asean countries.

Representatives of The Decent Working Group express disappointment with the Pakatan Harapan government for backtracking on labour laws.

“But now they have reverted to the 70-year-old practice of 48 hours a week,” he said, adding that the International Labour Organisation conventions adopt 40 working hours a week.

He said most of the manufacturing sectors make staff work six days a week while others in the private and public sector work 40 hours weekly.

“There should not be any disparity,” he added.

Another member of the group, Paper and Paper Products Manufacturing Employees Union executive secretary S Somahsundram, said the PH government is offering 98 days of maternity leave but with paid leave of 75 days.

“What about the remaining 23 days? It is not paid,” he said.

Somahsundram said while the union is not against factories operating around the clock, workers should be given 40 hours of work per week.

He said the group is disappointed that almost all of their 46 recommendations addressed to the ministry were rejected.

Other recommendations include gazetted public holidays for all workers, compulsory protection of night-shift workers’ safety and health with transport provided from home to the workplace, a written code of conduct on sexual harassment, rights for foreign spouses to work, rights for refugees to work, and defining the withholding of migrant workers’ identity documents as forced labour.