On 18 Oct 2017, South Africa’s Parliamentary standing committee on finance agreed with trade unions that pensioners’ funds cannot be used to bail cash-strapped state-owned enterprises through its Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF).

In comparison, the contributors of pensioners’ funds in Malaysiaare not privy to all investment deals made by the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) investment board. The identity of decision makers toois not revealed. Losses and gains are announced but as an overview very little details.

With very little transparency on how the EPF funds are managed, the government has a free reign over RM795.78 billion (in investment assets), and this was made clear when the country’s prime minister pledged to invest $3–4 billion in president Trump’s initiative to redevelop American infrastructure.

In its proposals to 2018 Budget of the finance ministry, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) included the importance of unions for the welfare of workers of the nation.

MTUC urged the government to make compulsory for employers to facilitate unionised environments, especially in companies comprising of B40 and M40 worker groups whose education levels did not equip them with knowledge of their rights and their incomes did not facilitate them proper legal representation, making them vulnerable to unlawful retrenchment, long periods of unemployment and household income uncertainty.

The move to curb companies from restricting unionisation must reflect in law with relevant amendments to the Trade Unions Act 1959 and supported by corresponding amendments to the codes, rules and guidelines practised by the Trade Union Affairs Department to ensure implementation.

“A standard Code of Practice for Trade Union Effectiveness must be in place and the Ministry of Human Resource (MOHR) needs to play an active role in holding dialogues, seminars and briefings between employers and union officials,” said MTUC secretary general J. Solomon.

He said this positive move will improve industrial relations with an assurance to uphold workers’ and employers’ rights in the event of a dispute.

“At the moment, while it is compulsory for employers to inform the Department of Labour (JTK) a month ahead of terminating workers, this is not largely practised in and workers are not aware of their rights.” said Solomon.
According to MOHR in 2016, a total of 37,699 workers were terminated. (45.9%)of them were from manufacturing sector, followed by the wholesale and retail sectors (20.7%), finance and insurance (12.1%), and mining and quarrying (6.6%).

Meanwhile in 2015, 44,343 workers were relieved of their services.
Speaking at MTUC’s +50 USD campaign launch recently, V.Alfred from A.V.Balamohan& Co said the current economic system that runs throughout the world is one that is encouraged to thrive in every environment and is a profiteering system that exploits workers with low wages for high gains known simply as the Capitalist System.
Alfred said in the 30 years before the Minimum Wages policy was implemented by the Human Resources Ministry (MOHR), it was the unions in Malaysia who fought for the rights of workers.“Unions negotiated with employers for better living wages and benefits like medical and overtime, through Collective Agreements.

“However, only 700,000 to 800,000 workers are unionised in Malaysia out of around 13 million workers are not unionised and have very little protection against exploitation,’’ he said, adding that the government too did not encourage unionising workers.

The profits share of national income continues to expandat the expense of the wages share and the government continues on an intimidating trend that a wage hike could trigger retrenchment.
Undoubtedly, Malaysian workers need to be enthusiastically unionised in numbers, in order to enhance the bargaining power and enter into collective agreements that could benefit the workers in real terms.

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