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Malaysia: building union power by more members

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16 April, 2019In a national unity meeting in Malaysia on 6 – 7 April, IndustriALL Council and union leaders demonstrated a strong commitment to build union power by increasing union membership power in the country’s various industries.

According to the Malaysia Department of Trade Union Affairs, the rate of unionization in the country is only 6 per cent. This year, the unions are aiming to organize thousands of workers from factories in the transport and equipment industry, electronic and electrical industries, as well as the paper industry.

“We are trying to organize workers from a multinational automobile corporation,” said Mohamad Fauzi, Chairman of IndustriALL Malaysia Council. “We need solidarity support from the union in its country of origin.”

The action plan includes producing information material on unions and organizing. Participants at the meeting also discussed a publication on latest trend of collective bargaining at the global level, which will be useful for unions when bargaining with employers.

“IndustriALL’s office has moved to Kuala Lumpur, and we will provide support for building stronger unions in Malaysia,” said IndustriALL regional secretary Annie Adviento. 

Since December last year, the IndustriALL Malaysia council is working with Decent Work Working Group to initiate a series of consultations on reforming the Employment Act 1955, Trade Union Act 1959 and Industrial Relations Act 1967.

The proposed amendments to the Employment Act were submitted to the Minister of Human Resources in January. Unfortunately, the Ministry’s latest draft of Employment Act amendments in March 2019 ignored the affiliates’ demands and backtracked several improvements stated in its initial draft from September 2018, including 44 weekly working hours and 98 days paid maternity leave.

Participants also discussed how to use ILO standards to help unions develop effective arguments to fight for labour rights, for example can the ratification of several ILO conventions show that a country is committed to higher labour standards and protecting workers’ interests. The Malaysian affiliates agreed to advocate for the ratification of more ILO conventions, in particular ILO’s fundamental conventions.