The Thung Pao Affair: Kit Siang calls for good sense to prevail
As a former journalist and official of journalists’ union, I was very pleased at the formation of the Thung Pao Chapel of the National Union of Journalists on 19th September 1972.
It is a step in the right direction for journalists in Malaysia, from all language media, to combine into one professional trade union, not only to fight for improved wages and better conditions of service, but equally important, to strive for a higher standard of journalism and the formulation and implementation of a code of journalistic ethics.
It is regrettable that the inauguration of the Thung Pao chapel should be marred by the warning letter which the Thung Pao management sent out to 37 of its editorial employees for attending the inaugural meeting.
The DAP stands firmly behind any worker in his basic right to organize and join a union. I believe that it is essential for a fruitful relationship between the Thung Pao chapel and management, that the start should be a cordial and understanding one.
I urge that good sense should prevail in this matter, so that there can be a correct start in the joint labour-management relationship, and that the Thung Pao management should without condition withdraw all the 37 letters, call in the chapel officials and have a frank heart-to-heart talk to straighten out their differences.
Let Thung Pao management, as one of the opinion makers in the country, show the way in the country as an enlightened and model employer. Let it declare publicly that it will recognize and respect the union.
The Thung Pao affair, however, has highlighted the grave problem of unionization in Malaysia.
Although the 1967 Industrial Relations Act upholds the right of workers to be organized, there is no specific provision to enforce such a declaration of rights. As a result, not a week passes in the last two decades without some brave workers being intimidated, victimized or dismissed for darling to join or trying to form a union.
This is a well-known fact, and is the cause of numerous disputes in the country. However, the Ministry of Labour, the Minister and Assistant Minister, have continued to ignore this problem, preferring to see the workers crushed and exploited in the uneven battle with the capitalists.
I call on the MTUC, the NUJ and all organized unions to take this opportunity to mount a campaign to amend the Industrial Relations Act of 1967 to give fool-proof protection to every worker from management intimidation, victimization or dismissal for trying to join or form a union.