Friday, October 7, 2011

Employment bill erodes the rights of workers


Last night I spoke at length objecting on the proposed amendments to the Employment Act.

Although the Bill was eventually passed at about 10pm, it will do more harm than good to the workers in the country. My speech among others are as follows;

Employment Bill erodes workers rights and ought to be rejected

The Bill has been introduced to bring some fundamental changes to labour laws. A total of 39 clauses of the Act are being amended.

One of the main amendments that have been proposed is to amend Section 2(C) namely on the definition of contractor " by inserting after the definition of “contractor” the following definition:
‘ “contractor for labour” means a person who contracts with a principal, contractor or sub-contractor to supply the labour required for the execution of the whole or any part of any work which a contractor or sub-contractor has contracted to carry out for a principal or contractor, as the case may be;’;

With this amendment the traditional accepted concept of master and servant relationship namely where the Employer has complete authority in directing the manner, place and time of his or her services will be gone.

Thus what will happen in future will be employees will be employed from out source system. This will mean salaries and other incidentals will be paid by the out sourcing agent.

Thus instead of the amendment to further protect the workers the new amendment will erode the workers’ rights and privileges.

Unionism will be a thing of the past as workers will move from one employer to another routinely at the whims and fancies of the agent and thus unions are impossible to be formed.

In any case before a Union is formed, 50%+ of the workers in that employment must agree for the formation of a Union. How can a Union ever be formed if out outsourcing be the new criteria of employment?

The bargaining power of the worker will be diluted and he will be at the mercy of the outsourcing agent.

Workers under contract for labour cannot be organised into Unions and this will weaken existing Unions.

This amendment is the most contentious. Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) takes great objection to this amendment

It has to be noted that the present Employment Act only covers employees who earn less than RM1, 500. per month. This amount is proposed to be increased to RM2000.

However, the fair figure should be at least RM5000. Better still may be there should be no monetary limits as workers who have been short changed by an employer need protection and their income should not be the deciding factor.

The other major amendment is Sexual Harassment.

Although this provision has been long overdue it is better if an Act is introduced specifically to govern this topic.

Also the amendment does no mention any specially trained persons to handle this type of cases.
Provisions should have been made for the training and employment of special officers to investigate and handle sexual harassment cases.

In view of the fact that that there are substantial and serious objections and reservations with regard to the amendments proposed, I propose that the Bill be referred to a select committee under 54(2) of the Standing Orders for further deliberation and input on this Bill.

I feel a thorough consultation with all stake holders be done before it is passed by this House.
Finally the Minister must initiate laws which protect workers and are labour friendly.

Many of the present amendments actually weaken the labours rights and privileges. Thus one wonders if the Minister is Minister of Labour or Minister of Anti- Labour.

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