MTUC doubts TPPA can protect workers’ rights

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Source: The Malaysian Insider

“TPPA: Malaysia Is Not For Sale” books sits on display during its launching at the Karangkraf Complex in Shah Alam on July 11, 2014. The Malaysian Insider/Najjua Zulkefli

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has met strong opposition in Malaysia. Malaysian Trades Union Congress says a provision under TPPA on removing restrictions on unions would not make much difference to workers’ rights. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 6, 2015.

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has expressed doubt that worker related issues will be resolved even if Putrajaya amend labour laws as required under the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Its secretary-general N. Gopal Kishnam said employers were the stumbling block to setting up unions in workplaces.

“It is easy to register unions but difficult to obtain recognition from employers to enter into collective bargaining,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Gopal was responding to the TPPA summary text released yesterday, which revealed that long-standing restrictions on unions and strikes must be removed.

He said Putrajaya had yet to ratify the International Labour Orgaisation (ILO) Convention 87 on Freedom of Association.

“This convention paves the way for workers to set up unions to protect their rights and enter into collective bargaining,” he said.

The Employment Act, Trade Union Act and Industrial Relations Act governed industrial relations among the government, employers and employees in Malaysia.

Gopal (pic, left) said Putrajaya had from time to time made amendments to the law but it was not up the ILO requirements.

He said the Trade Union Department registered unions, but subsequently it was the Industrial Relations Department that acted on whether the workers had satisfied the requirements for recognition.

“Employers make it difficult for union representatives to obtain recognition, usually saying that a majority decision was not obtained in a secret ballot and legal challenges are instituted,” he said.

Gopal said those in managerial, executive, security and in confidential positions were barred to set up unions.

“In fact, only 7% of our workforce, including those in the public sector workers, are unionised,”  he said.

Gopal said MTUC was in the dark as to how the TPPA would help workers, especially the 40% of Malaysians in the lower income group, to raise their income level.

“We will study the TPPA document in detail before making our stand,” he added.

The agreement is scheduled to be tabled and debated in Parliament at a special sitting early next year.

Twelve countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, Vietnam and Malaysia – concluded the TPP negotiations in Atlanta on October 5.

Detractors of the controversial agreement say it will cause negative economic growth and have implications on the country’s sovereignty as it will remove the country’s control over policymaking. – November 6, 2015.