Malaysian Trades Union Congress general secretary Law Kiat Min says there is no need for a consensus among all its officials for any amendment to labour laws. -NSTP

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress today said there was no need for a consensus among all its officials for any amendment to labour laws.

The letter from the union general secretary Law Kiat Min comes in the wake of what seems to be a growing split among certain top ranking MTUC officials.

The letter from Law, dated Oct 14, was addressed to MTUC president, Datuk Abdul Halim Mansor and J. Solomon, who is the secretary-general.

"We have carefully scrunitised the amendments made to the Industrial Relations Act 1967 and while we are disappointed some of MTUC's proposals were not considered by the government, we cannot find anything detrimental to the interests of the workers," Law said in the letter.

He said they remained positive that the amendments were in line with the fundamental ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association that the MTUC had consistently fought for the last 70 years.

Earlier, Solomon had alleged that Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran lied about consulting with stakeholders before tabling the amendments.

He accused the minister of unilaterally deciding to submit proposed amendments to the IRA, Employment Act and Trades Union Act to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) for approval.

He claimed that the minister had rushed the proposals to the AGC without waiting for MTUC to submit its proposed amendments to the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC).

Halim had also urged the Dewan Negara to reject all eight amendments to the IRA 1967 passed by Dewan Rakyat, also alleging that the amendments were "rushed".

He claimed that Kulasegaran had tabled the proposed amendments without the endorsement of the labour centre and Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF).

Halim said the minister should have received the consensus from the NLAC on the amendments before tabling the proposals in Dewan Rakyat last Monday (Oct 7).

The permanent constituents of the NLAC include the Human Resources Ministry, MTUC and MEF.

"We believe substantive and meaningful consultation had taken place and though we understand key MTUC officials may not have been present, we note the constitution of the NLAC and the ILO Convention 144 does not dictate that there must be consensus before any labour law amendment," said Law.

"History has also proven that the NLAC can never come to any consensus on major issues because MTUC and MEF can never agree. MEF has gone on record that it is totally opposed to Freedom of Association."

He said the MTUC would wilfully play right into the hands of MEF who is opposed to the amendments.

"By demanding that NLAC must have a consensus before any amendment to labour law can be enacted, it would mean that we can never improve workers' rights.

"This is because the MEF will never give any consensus to improvements in workers' rights as can be seen by their opposition to minimum wage, increase in retirement age and the Employment Insurance Scheme.

"We have already embarrassed ourselves as the only Labour Centre in the world to vote against the ILO Convention of Protection Against all Forms of Violence at Workplace.

"We call on you to suspend any attempt that may jeopardise the interests of workers until and endorsed by the General Council," he added.