We want absolute right for every worker, even migrants, to join a union, says MTUC

Malaysian Trades Union Congress secretary-general J Solomon. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has denied the government’s accusation that it was against the ratification of the International Labour Organisation Convention 87 (C87).

Describing the human resources ministry as “stooping very low,” MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said the foundation of the United Nations convention was to give the absolute right to each and every worker to join a union, irrespective of whether he was a local or a migrant worker.

“The ministry has misled the nation in the matter and it appears that the ministry needs to be reformed before the labour laws are reformed,” he said in a statement issued from Geneva today.

The human resources ministry yesterday called out the MTUC for wanting to seek help from the United Nations to ratify the C87 international convention which the union had previously opposed.

The convention deals with the fundamental freedom of association of all workers, including migrants.

The ministry said MTUC had previously rejected the principle of C87 on the freedom to organise trade unions as this could lead to a multiplicity of unions in the workplace.

“MTUC cannot be selective by asking the government to ratify C87 while they themselves are objecting to this principle that defines the very foundation of C87,” it said in a statement.

It added that ratification of any convention means adherence to all principles of the convention.

The ministry went on to say that it had proposed amendments to both the Trade Union Act 1959 and the Industrial Relations Act 1967, based on the principles of C87.

It said that MTUC wanted a moratorium of 10 years before the amendments could be enforced.

“The ministry then had to abandon the draft and continued with the necessary amendments to both the acts, without the principles of C87.”

Solomon said although the clauses in the convention would be binding on the government, the implementation would not be immediate, as seen by its ratification of Convention 98 (C98). It was ratified in 1961 but the requirements had not been fully implanted till now.

He said the 10-year moratorium sought by MTUC was only one of the clauses that allows workers in any firm to organise multiple unions in the same organisation, which he said would cause disharmony in the workplace.

“The thrust of C87 was allowing all workers, whether local or migrant, to join a workers’ union.

“Further, all the provisions in the C87 cannot be implemented after the ratification.

“It will be done gradually, based on the needs of local demands and readiness of the constituents.

“Malaysia ratified Convention 98 (C98) in 1961 but it has not fully implemented the provisions of C98 to date.

“For example, the condition for unions to obtain prior recognition from employers has not been lifted and there is no collective bargaining in the public sector.”

Solomon said in C87, pluralism of unions is one of the provisions but it is not the foundation of C87, as claimed by the ministry.

He said C87 has fundamental rights, including the freedom for trade unions to hold strikes without the imposition of restrictions under the law or from the ministry.

“It also has the right to collective bargaining, immediately after registration, without the condition to obtain prior recognition from the employer.

“All these freedoms are absent in the government’s proposal.

“In fact, the Trade Union Act 1959 and the Industrial Relations Act 1967 must be read together to fully implement C87.

“This has not been the case during the technical committee’s discussions.”

Solomon urged the ministry to come clean and called for the officer who made the statement to resign immediately for misleading the public and tarnishing the image of MTUC with the ulterior motive of obstructing labour law reforms.