LETTER | The Pakatan Harapan government is working hard to clean up the misdeeds of the previous government apart from the already arduous task of governing the country.
Investigations into the 1MDB scandal, which would probably finally rank as one of the biggest heist by any government, is necessary for both trying to recover the monies siphoned out so that it could be returned to the nation’s coffers and also as part of the healing process of the country – where a lesson should be learnt by any future government that such wanton corrupt acts would not go unpunished.
The people of the country, at least those who have not benefited from the corruption of the kleptocratic BN government, are waiting for charges to be levelled against the perpetrators. There have also been abuses of various types that the previous BN government had subjected the people of the country too. One is where there was widespread institutional abuse was in the area of labour and trade union rights.
The Harapan government has initiated a series of reforms which would restore the balance between labour and capital in the country, which has for a long time been skewed unfairly and corruptly in favour of capital. Businesses, particularly big businesses, were both beneficiaries of such a system and also played a big part in further corrupting the system.
There have been many cases of abuse of labour rights over the past few decades that have gone unaddressed by the system, among them being:
Union busting activities by employers, where various means were adopted to prevent the formation and organisation of trade unions. This became somewhat of an industry, where the actions were direct and obvious in some instances such as blatantly threatening employees who joined trade unions and participated in their activities.
There were also indirect measures employed, such as employers sponsoring the formation of in-house unions who would be more easily influenced and even controlled by employers and corporate manoeuvres that made it difficult for trade unions;
Dismissal of trade union leaders for no good reason and often for engaging in trade union activities;
Delays in the cases filed at the Ministry of Human Resources and the Industrial Court, where such delays worked to the detriment of workers and trade unions;
The costs of pursuing various industrial relations claims have become exorbitant, which again works in favour of employers who could afford such costs and where most employees and trade unions would find it difficult to do so;
A concerted effort by businesses to depress wage levels of the lower-income group, which has resulted in this category of workers finding it hard to earn a living wage to sustain themselves and their families and which has also played a big part in the increasing level of wealth and income inequality in the country, and
The use of various types of voluntary separation schemes by employers to get around the redundancy and retrenchment requirements in the country.
An independent commission should be set up to investigate the various forms of labour abuses. As much as time may have passed, it is important for justice to be served, though the form in which it takes place may well need to be considered.
As an example, for cases of union busting, employers that have engaged in such activities could be required to pay compensation to the trade unions impacted and to compensate or reinstate the employment of dismissed trade union leaders.
Part of such a commission’s scope should also be to look at reviewing the labour abuses that were directly or indirectly supported by government officials.
The establishment of such a commission would allow for the real extent of the nature and impact of previous labour abuses to be exposed and redressed. It could then be used to form part of the basis towards the reform of the industrial relations mechanism that Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran is embarking upon.
Workers and trade unions in the country have suffered immensely due to an imbalanced and corrupt system, and the new Malaysia should look to address the injustices inflicted on the common people and also to prevent it from happening again.
Source : https://m.malaysiakini.com/letters/432239