Malaysian unions push for law on industrial manslaughter

The BWI Malaysian Liaison Council’s (BWI-MLC) new set of leaders hit the ground running by giving its overwhelming support for the development and implementation of a campaign to push for a law on industrial manslaughter in Malaysia. 

The decision was made at a BWI-MLC annual general meeting on 14 September, where member unions chose the council’s new leaders and discussed new organising strategies  responsive to the COVID-19 new normal. 

Under the campaign slogan “kill a worker, go to jail,” BWI-MLC said that the call for a law on industrial manslaughter stemmed from the need to highlight the Malaysian workers’ occupational health and safety concerns.

BWI-MLC Chair Nor Azlan Yaacob said that construction workers in Malaysia are ten times more likely to die at workplaces than construction workers in the UK, with the number of fatalities and injuries in the industry rising dramatically. 

“Our existing laws fail to protect the health and safety of workers from bad employers. They provide no incentives for employers to keep their workers safe and penalties are negligible. This what a law on industrial manslaughter seeks to address. If an employer has been remiss on his/her responsibilities to keep workers safe at workplaces, and that resulted in deaths, they could go to jail,” Azlan explained. 

In the same meeting, the unions also shared their respective experiences and lessons in addressing the labour issues brought about and/or worsened by the pandemic. Azlan discussed the impact of the government’s prolonged lockdown under the Recovery Movement Control Order.

“Many timber mills have been closed, while others have cut their working hours and retrenched workers,” said Azlan, who is also the General Secretary of the Timber Employees Union of Peninsula Malaysia. 

This was confirmed by Engrit Liaw, Secretary General of the Sabah Timber Employees Union, who said that several companies have not only illegally cut wages, but also registered management-controlled unions to undermine genuine union organising. Our members are fighting these schemes. However, they are being systematically harassed. Since many of them are migrants, they are being threatened with retrenchment and even deportation,” Liaw said. 

The new BWI-MLC leadership is made up of: 

1. Chair, Norazlan Yaacob (TEUPM)

2. Vice-Chair (Public Sector), Datuk Ahmad Shuffir (MTSU)

3. Vice-Chair (Private Sector), Engrit Liaw (STIEU)

4. Secretary, Azhar Abdul Shukor (PKNS)

5. Treasurer, Hasmi Hamidan (MFOU)

Azlan hoped that their term will bring new energy and direction to the Malaysian Liaison Council. “We hope to maximise our affiliates’ use of their collective bargaining initiatives to tackle the key issues of safety and decent work, while deepening their legal understanding and advocacy efforts.” 


The BWI-MLC is comprised of the Cement Industry Employees Union (CIEU), Malay Forest Officers Union (MFOU), Malayan Technical Services Union (MTSU), PKNS Employees Union (PKNS), Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union (STIEU), Timber Employees Union of Peninsula Malaysia (TEUPM), Timber Industry Employees Union of Sarawak (TIEUS), Union of Employees in the Construction Industry (UECI), and the Union of Forestry Employees Sarawak (UFES).