(Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on 13th June 1979)
DAP seeks security of work, retrenchment, redundancy and retirement benefits for workers.
Pursuant to Standing Order 49(1), I rise to move:
“That this House pursuant to Standing Order 49(1) grants leave to the Hon’ble Lim Kit Siang to introduce a Private Member’s Bill intituled Employment Act 1979 (Amendment) to amend the Employment Ordinance (1955) to provide:
- that the notice to terminate the services of a person who is employed under a contract of service shall not be less than two years;
- one month’s notice if he has been so employed for less than two years;
- two months’ notice if he has been so employed for two years or more but less than five years; and
- three months’ notice if he has been so employed for five years or more;
- that an employee who has been in continuous service with an employer for three years shall be entitled to retrenchment benefit on the termination of his service by the employer on the ground of redundancy or by reason of any re-organisation of the employer’s profession, business, trade or work;
- that an employee who has been in continuous service with an employer for five years shall be entitled to retirement benefit other than sums payable under the Employees’ Provident Fund Ordinance on his retirement.”
Amendment No. 1: Security of Work
The purpose of the first proposed amendment, which seeks to amend Section 12(3) of the Employment Ordinance 1955, is to confer on the worker the security of tenure in his job, which is sorely lacking at present.
Under the present law, a worker has no job security as his services can be properly terminated provided the employer complies with the requisite minimum notice stipulated by Section 12(3) of the Employment Ordinance 1955 which reads:
“12 (3). The notice to terminate the services of a person who is employed under a contract of service shall be not less than-
- one weeks’ notice if he has been so employed for less than two years;
- two weeks’ notice if he has been so employed for two years or more but less than five years; and
- four weeks’ notice if he has been so employed for five years or more;
Provided that the provisions of this section shall not be taken to prevent either party from waiving his right to notice on any occasion. ”
Thus, an employer can properly terminate the services of an employee who had spent, say, 15 to 20 years in his employment by four weeks’ notice of termination as provided by Section 12 o the Employment Ordinance.
This is clearly unfair where an employee has not been guilty of either incompetence or misconduct. There can be no comparison between the consequences for an employer if an employee terminates the contract of employment and those which will ensue for an employee if his service is terminated by the employer.
In reality, people build much of their lives around their jobs. Their incomes and prospects for the future are inevitably founded in the expectation that their jobs will continue. For workers in the majority of instances, not only dismissals, but also proper termination of service, is a disaster. it may involve the uprooting or even the breaking up of homes and families. Old workers will find the greatest difficulty in getting work at all.
We in Malaysia must recognise what is really at stake for an employee when his job is involved.
It is with this view to confer greater security of tenure of job for workers that I propose amendment of Section 12(3) to extend the legal minimum period of notice for termination of service.
Amendment No.2: Retrenchment Benefit and Amendment No. 3: Retirement Benefit
The Ministry of Labour and Government had used to claim that they had never taken away the legal rights of workers pertaining to their wages and conditions of service, but in these two cases, the Government has been guilty of taken away from workers legal rights which they previously enjoyed.
In July 1976, the then Labour Minister, Datuk Lee San Choon, proposed a batch of amendments to the Employment Ordinance 1955, among which, repealed Section 60 G and 60 H, which gave to workers who have worked for three years or more the legal right to benefit and for those who had worked for five or more years, the right to retirement benefit.
The workers had secured this legal right after fighting the interpretation of Section 60G and H to Court, but after this victory in the Courts, the victory was snatched away from them by this amendment n 1976 which must have delighted the employers no end.
Although under the July 1976 amendments, the Minister is given the power to make regulations “prescribing entitlement to and payment of retrenchment benefit” to workers, under new paragraph (da) to sub-section (2) of section 102 of the Ordinance, some three years have passed but no such regulations have been prescribed.
In trying to justify such repeal of Sections 60G and 60H in 1976, the then Minister of Labour said workers will stand to benefit from such an amendment. This is of course utter nonsense, because for three years, workers who would otherwise be entitled to retrenchment benefits after working for three years or entitled to retirement benefits after working for five years, have lost these rights. This, I submit, is open robbery of the retrenchment and retirement benefit rights of workers, and unless the Government is prepared to agree to their restoration, must stand condemned as a government which is only interested in finding ways to deprive more and more of the limited rights of workers.