Giving workers more money and more days off

MTUC secretary-general J Solomon says Malaysia’s labour laws are archaic. (Facebook pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: A cost of living allowance (Cola) of RM300, 98-day maternity leave, seven-day paternity leave, 30-day paid leave to perform the haj and housing allowances based on the cost of living in cities are among the sweeping labour reforms sought by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).

The proposals are among those submitted to the government, which is in the process of reviewing three key labour laws, as promised by Pakatan Harapan in the general election manifesto last year.

In what it terms as a bid to bring dignity to the Malaysian workforce, which it claims has not been given the rightful recognition, the MTUC has asked the National Labour Action Council to ensure the government and employers give utmost importance to job security as well as decent work.

MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said the labour laws in Malaysia have become archaic since most of them were promulgated in the 1950s and 1960s.

“The environment has changed over the years, and there is far greater recognition about human dignity, human values and workers’ rights. It is long overdue for a comprehensive overhaul of various labour laws.

“We thank the human resources minister who has initiated a reform of the labour laws under the new government which MTUC has been championing since 1970s,” he said in a statement.

The three laws that will be reviewed are the Employment Act 1955, Industrial Relations Act 1967 and Trade Union Act 1959.

The MTUC’s proposals include extending the coverage of the Employment Act to workers earning up to RM10,000 a month; maternity leave to be raised from 60 days to 98 days, and paternity leave of seven days.

Other proposals include:

  • to include domestic workers and foreign workers under the Employment Act;
  • a 15-minute break to be provided for every two hours of work, to enable workers to do light stretching exercises to improve workers’ health and reduce medical costs;
  • cost of medical examination, consultation and all treatments to be borne by the employer.
  • child care facilities — employers with more than 100 employees should provide a child care centre or pay an allowance of RM300 as child care subsidy for children aged seven and below, up to a maximum of five children.
  • a safe and hygienic room for lactating mothers
  • increased sick leave to 30 days from the current 15 and a 60-day hospitalisation, irrespective of the number of years served;
  • unused sick leave permitted to be used for hospital stays, in addition to the 60-day hospital benefit;
  • termination benefits of a minimum of two months’ salary for every year of service, irrespective of the number of years of service.
  • 30-day paid leave for all Muslim workers to perform haj.
  • housing allowance of RM300 for workers in urban areas, or a subsidy on housing loan interest payments for those earning less than RM10,000.
  • mandatory union membership for all workers.

“The MTUC is confident that the government and employers will seriously consider the above proposals,” Solomon said.

He said Malaysia’s aim to achieve the status of a high-income nation not only needed quality workers but also quality employers as the workers’ wellbeing and dignity were important for increased productivity.

The need to bridge the income gap cannot be prolonged and all stakeholders need to change their mindset in sharing the wealth of the nation equitably as every Malaysian needs to contribute towards the progress of the nation.

“Workers too should change their work culture and behaviour in view of the need for Malaysians to grow and to have a share of the fruits of a high-income nation,” Solomon said.

He also urged Malaysian workers to put aside all differences and be united to pursue this cause for the better future of their families.

“We have waited for 60 years to see these labour law reforms and let’s do it together and none should disrupt this golden opportunity. We strongly believe we will realise our dream,” he added.