Friday, October 7, 2011

Ministry to study unions move - Protection for foreign workers welcomed, says minister

SUBRAMANIAM: Government will protect rights of workers

The Human Resources Ministry will study a proposal by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) to allow foreign workers from all sectors to join labour unions.

Its minister, Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam, said the ministry welcomed any move to unionise foreign workers.

"Only certain employers did not allow their foreign workforce to do so. Currently, there are some 10,000 foreigners in the plantation sector who are members of the National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW)," he said after a meeting with representatives from NUPW and MTUC at the Parliament building yesterday.

"Perhaps after this, we can extend it to other sectors. We are not against this as it is also an effort to take care of the welfare of the workers."

Subramaniam also gave an assurance the government had no intention to change the structure of the labour system through amendments to the Employment Act. On the contrary, it was only interested to protect the rights of the workers.

He said the ministry had held discussions with various workers’ unions, including MTUC, to discuss problems faced by the workforce in the country.

“Although we have made several amendments to the Employment Act 1955, this does not mean we do not look after the welfare of the workers," he said.

“In fact, the amendments are to protect them. Issues voiced by unions were taken into consideration before we made the amendments. This is for the benefit of the workers."

MTUC president Mohd Khalid Atan said they welcomed the ministry's move to study their proposal to allow foreign workers to be part of unions.

"They can join unions but, at the moment, they are not allowed to do so by their employers, contractors or agents who employ them because there is a special provision in the contract of employment which prevents them from doing so."

He said workers brought in by agents were different as they were under the Private Agencies Act 1971.

"People under contract labour are not allowed to join or form unions so they lose their rights. Such a contract system is very exploitative in nature,” he said.

On a separate note, Mohd Khalid said MTUC was still unhappy with the ministry’s decision to table the Employment Act for a second reading in Parliament.

He said the congress would meet at their annual general council meeting next week and discuss their next course of action on the proposed amendments by the ministry.

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