‘Sabah stakeholders not consulted over industrial law reforms’

Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran says a major review is in store for the Industrial Relations Act which aims to ensure industrial harmony between employers and employees. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah lawyers have urged the federal government to delay passing the proposed amendments to the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) until all relevant stakeholders, including in the state, are consulted.

Sabah Law Society (SLS) president Roger Chin said Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran should firstly consult these stakeholders, including SLS, as the amendments would affect the rights of Sabahans.

As an example, he said the provision relating to the qualification of the president and chairman of the Industrial Court does not take into account a qualified person, as defined in the Advocates Ordinance (Sabah Cap. 2)

He said one of the proposed amendments to Section 23A(2) of the IRA states that “… a qualified person as defined in the Legal Profession Act 1976 [Act 166] or any laws replacing it, with at least 15 years of experience in labour and industrial relations in the ministry charged with the responsibility for human resources, may be considered for appointment as a chairman under subsection 23(2)”.

“The proposed amendments discriminate against a qualified person under the Advocates Ordinance, for example Sabahan lawyers.

“(This is so) as he or she will not be accorded the same opportunity as a qualified person under the Legal Profession Act 1976, for example West Malaysian lawyers, for consideration and appointment as a chairman of the Industrial Court,” Chin said here today.

Kula had yesterday said a major review is in store for the IRA which aims to ensure industrial harmony between employers and employees, with key amendments tabled for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat.

Roger Chin.

He said the amendments will be debated and are expected to be approved by Parliament in the current session.

Kula, a lawyer by profession, also said the views of stakeholders, including the National Labour Advisory Council, Malaysian Employers Federation and Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) had been taken into account.

MTUC secretary-general J Solomon, however, denied that it had been consulted over labour law reforms including amendments to the IRA, which were tabled for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday.

Solomon claimed Kula had lied about consulting stakeholders before tabling the amendments.

Chin said the SLS is “greatly concerned” about the proposed amendments to the IRA as it was never consulted, despite the application of the Act throughout the whole of Malaysia.

He said they were similarly not consulted over the proposed amendments to the Labour Ordinance (Sabah Cap. 67), which is only applicable in Sabah.

“The SLS and all other relevant stakeholders in Sabah should be consulted on all amendments to the law affecting Sabah.

“The SLS thus urges the government to withhold passing the proposed amendments to the IRA in its current form, to re-draft it and re-table it with amendments only after all the views of the relevant stakeholders, including the SLS, are considered,” he said.

Chin said the SLS had only recently obtained a copy of the proposed amendments following an official request, adding they have not had sufficient time to review the proposed amendments in depth.