Malaysian unions oppose parliament suspension
Malaysian trade unions have joined hands in opposing the suspension of the country’s parliament until August 2021 as part of a proclamation of national emergency to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement released on 13 January, the Labour Law Reform Coalition (LLRC) called on the government to lift the suspension and negotiate for an inter-party consensus to speed up labour law reforms. It said that while it fully supports the government’s efforts to fight COVID-19, it is deeply concerned over the parliament’s suspension, saying that it will further delay labour law reforms in Malaysia and undermine the government’s own target of 48 percent labour income share.
“The delay in parliamentary process will negatively impact Malaysian workers’ freedom of association and the government’s effort to align domestic laws with international labour standards. The status quo means that the majority workers are left unprotected by effective trade unions, which are able to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions for workers,” LLRC Chairpersons N. Gopal Kishnam and Irene Xavier said.
The LLRC, where the BWI Malaysian Affiliates Council is a part of, explained that the absence of collective bargaining at workplaces will defeat the government’s target to achieve 48 percent labour income share as stated in its “Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.” It also said that the parliament’s suspension will allow employers to unilaterally terminate workers in the middle of a pandemic without undergoing collective bargaining negotiations.
The labour coalition stressed that since the amendment to the Industrial Relations Act was made effective on 1 January, the government should immediately table and pass amendments to the Trade Union Act and Employment Act in the first quarter of 2021.
“These labour laws are interrelated. Without the said amendments and their implementation, many provisions in the Industrial Relations Act cannot be enforced by the authorities,” the LLRC leaders said.
On 12 January, Malaysia’s King declared a nationwide state of emergency since 1961 and suspended parliament for months in a bid to address the pandemic. Government critics and opposition lawmakers, however, have branded the move as a scheme to allow embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to cling to power.