Speech by the DAP MP for Kuala Lumpur Bandar, Mr. Lee Lam Thye when debating the estimates for the MINISTRY OF LABOUR AND POWER in Parliament on 8th December, 1976.
LABOUR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
(a) DAP calls for further amendments to the Industrial Relations Act to protect the interest of Malaysian workers.
On the subject of Labour and Industrial Relations, I wish to refer to the Industrial Relation Act 1967.
Despite the various amendments made to the Industrial Relations Act in Parliament in April last year, I have still to point out that the Act is far from satisfactory.
Unions and Malaysian workers throughout the country are today still dissatisfied, and rightly so, with many of the existing provisions in the IRA, and unless further suitable amendments are made to the Act, the interests of Malaysian workers will be in jeopardy.
One such amendment needed-urgently is in regard to Union recognition by an employer. There are many employers in the country today who are mortally afraid of unions and they will do a11 that they can to provent workers from setting up or joining trade unions.
(c) Union Recognition:
Although the latest amendment in the IRA states that the employer had to respond to the union’s claim for recognition within 21 days, this is still unsatisfactory, although it may be helpful.
What should be done is to have automatic recognition of trade unions once it is determined by the Registrar of Trade Unions that more than 50% of the workers in one establishment had chosen to join a trade union. If at all any dispute arises on recognition over the qualification of members, then it should be referred immediately to the Industrial Court, as was the case before 1969, and not leave decision to the Minister whether or not to refer the dispute to the Industrial Court.
(d) Unjustified Dismissals:
Then again, on the question of wrongful dismissal, although the latest amendment enables the Director General to promote a settlement in a case of dismissal of a workman, who is not a member of a trade uion and, failing settlement, to notify the Minister who may, if he thinks fit, refer the matter to the Industrial Court.
While we support the provision to protect unorganised workers from easy and arbitrary victimisation through dismissal, we feel that it is inappropriate for the Minister to be again given the discretion to refer the case to the Industrial Court for arbitration in the event no settlement is arrived at through consiliation.
One would have thought that justice requires the Director General or the Minister to mandatorily refer the matter to the Industrial Court for determination if settlement through consiliation fails. Why should the dismissed worker wait for the tender mercies of the Director General of the Minister.
(e) Bone of Contention:
Another amendment to the IRA which should be made is in regard to the provision which prohibits the union from including in its proposals for a collective agreement such items as promotion, transfer, termination of services by way of redundancy, dismissal or reinstatement of a worker etc. etc.
This section in the IRA is anathema to the workers of this country and so long as it remains in the ACT, the workers of our country will harbour a sense of grievances against the employers and against the Government.
I therefore propose that the objectionable features of this Section be removed.
2) ON INDUSTRIAL COURTS,
(a) DAP calls for speedy disposal of industrial disputes in the interests of Justice.
Under Statutory Bodies, I wish to refer to the Industrial Court.
Being a permanent feature of the Industrial Relations System in this country, the Industrial Court is here to stay and is destined to playa very important role in administering justice.
While I wish to extend my appreciation to the Industrial Court for doing a splendid job, however, one unfortunate point which has to be mentioned here is that our present Industrial Court is just not in a position to see to the speedy disposal of Industrial disputes.
The reason is that we are short of industrial courts and as a result the Industrial Court in Kuala Lumpur is over-burdened with industrial disputes which is just as bad as our common law courts.
The backlog is so serious that even cases have to be fixed up to July next year for hearing.
This is most unfortunate and is not doing justice to those involved, for as the saying goes, “justice delayed is justice denied.”
This is certainly not in keeping with the IRA wherein there is a provision stating that any dispute referred to the Industrial Court should be adjudicated and award made within 30 days.
This serious problem has to be overcome, and I would like to propose that more staff should be engaged and more courts opened up to adjudicate industrial disputes.
In this connection, I would also like to suggest that regional Industrial Courts should be appointed, with the presidents or chairmen permanently stationed in the regions with jurisdiction to hear cases within the said regions.
As more than 80% of the disputes referred to the Industrial Court are dismissal cases, it would be an advantage for both the dismissed workers and the employers to have their disputes settled early by way of having more industrial courts.
(b) Government should legislate to make Industrial Court Awards Final, and unchallengable.
Another very undesirable feature in our industrial, relations system today is that we often find that awards made by Industrial Courts are challenged on points of law, although on points of facts, the Industrial Court Awards are final.
This has come about because employers who are not happy with the awards could appeal to the High Court which has supervisory jurisdiction over the Industrial Court and interfere in the awards on points of law and jurisdiction.
This is being done by way of ‘certiorari’ proceedings adopted by the employers who take advantage of the law to go to the High Court to delay awards in the interests of employees.
This certainly makes a mockery of the Industrial Court award and defeating its purpose.
Since the purpose of the industrial Coat is for the adjudication of industrial disputes, I would like to propose that this, powers of the High Court should be removed by suitable amendments to the Court of Judicature Act and also the Industrial Relations Act.
If our neighbouring country could do this, I see no reason why this cannot be done here in the interest of industrial justice.
In the final analysis, our industrial court awards should be made final and binding upon both parties, the workers and the employers¬.
3) DAP calls for compulsory setting up of Safety Committees in all factories and submission of safety policy statement to the Machinery Department.
On the subject of occupational safety, I would like to propose that it is time for the Government to make it compulsory for Safety Committees to be set up in all factories and industries throughout the country to help reduce occupational hazards in all such establishments.
Furthermore, it should also be made compulsory for factories to submit safety policy statements to the Government.
Reported industrial accidents in 1974 totalled 1,058 of which 12 were fatal cases. Up to the end of August 1975 there were 550 accidents and four fatalities.
The Government besides taking steps to enforce an industrial safety programme should also legislate to make it compulsory for safety bodies to be set up in all factories.
It is no longer sufficient for firms and factories to pay more lip-service to the concept of industrial safety. They should already be aware of the urgency of safety, and factory safety policy and a safety committee, besides protecting the worker, will help save on production costs and improve quality control.
DAP calls for amendments to SOCSO.
On Social Security Administration, I wish to call on the Govern¬ment to amend certain sections of the Social Security Act 1969 which are unfair to employees.
The Act is basically designed to provide compensation to an employee injured in the course of his employment without having to prove negligence on the part of his employer. By so doing and in their eagerness to assist the employee, the authors of the Act have deprived him of his rights to sue his employer for damages arising out of employer’s negligence under the common law.
The Act should therefore provide an alternative in that the employee could either proceed to obtain compensation under the ACT without having to prove negligence, or he could if he desires to go to Court and obtain damages under the common law by proving negligence on the part of the employer.
Furthermore, what the employee is being paid under the ACT will be based on his monthly income which cannot be more than $500 as the ACT only applies to persons earning less than this sum. Therefore what is being paid to the employee is more loss of earnings and nothing is being paid for the injury he suffers.
On the question of occupational safety, I would also like to draw the attention of the Minister to the frequent occurence of deaths or serious injury inflicted on construction workers of high-rise buildings owing to absence of safety equipment provided by the construction industry.
Only yesterday, two construction workers died and one seriously injured in Kuala Lumpur as a result of the collapse of a scaffolding at a construction site in Jalan Pahang, Kuala Lumpur.
It is time for the Government to take a serious view of’ this matter and take steps to ensure that the construction industry must take heed of the Factories and Machinery (Safety, Health and Welfare) Regulations 1970 which requires employers of construction workers to provide safety equipment for the employees.
Although such a law exists, till to date it is not effectively enforced and very often it is not heeded by the construction industry.
I call on the Government, at a time when more and more high-rise buildings are being constructed in Kuala Lumpur, to take steps to make it compulsory for the construction industry to provide safety equipment for employees involved in high rise construction.