Setbacks in Malaysian Labour

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr.Lim Kit Siang, at the DAP Labour Bureau meeting on Wednesday, 4th Nov. 1970 at 8p.m. in Kuala Lumpur

For the past 18 months, the cause of labour in Malaysia suffered a series of setbacks.

Last year, the government prohibited officers of political parties from holding office in a trade union allegedly “to ensure that individual unions and the trade union movement shall be led by bona fide workers.”

This was followed by a barrage of blatantly anti-labour acts by the government, e.g. denying dismissed employees the right to union representation, the prohibition of public employees from federating with private –sector workers, the putting in cold storage of women’s equal pay issue and the salary claims of government employees, etc..

Why did the government prohibit officers of political parties from holding office in a trade union?

The true reason is to deny trade unions and workers the right to seek political redress of their grievances and injustices. And when workers are denied political redress of their injustices, they are denied all redress.

This is because ever anti-labour legislation and act of the government is a political act, and a political decision is required to undo these anti-labour laws and acts, by putting political pressure on the government to modify its anti-labour stand.

If trade unions are denied the right of political representation inside and outside Parliament, the trade union movement will remain as ineffective castrated and emasculated as it is at present, and the lot of Malaysian labour will continue to be a very bleak one.

It is a great shock to me that the trade union leaders in Malaysia, and the MTUC, should take this bodily blow to the cause of labour so tamely, and timidly.

Unless trade union leaders in Malaysia are more dynamic and dedicated, I do not see how the lot of the workers are going to be very materially improved. The DAP calls on the government to repeal this restriction on trade union leaders from active politics. If the government refuse to repeal this restriction, then we call on the MTUC, all political parties and trade unions to join forces and take a firm stand to fight for its abolition.

One of the biggest problems Malaysian labour field is the unionization of the unorganized workers, who represent the overwhelming majority of the Malaysian work force.

Malaysia must have a voluminous case history of the countless number of workers who tried to unionise, got victim