The National Union of Banking Employees (Nube) is to hold a secret ballot for members to decide if a nationwide strike should be called against a major bank later this year.
Secretary-general J Solomon said some 50,000 workers in Maybank Bhd want to stand up for their rights and long-term interests, as well as for freedom from official meddling in union activities.
Smarting from what he called “union-busting activities and disrespect from the human resources minister”, he said the delegates’ representatives decided to call for a strike at a meeting last Sunday.
“The exco will make preparations for this and will arrange for a secret ballot for the entire membership of Nube to decide further on this,” he said.
At 5pm last Friday, Nube held a picket along Jalan Pudu, outside Menara Maybank where the headquarters of the government-linked bank is located.
In spite of a brief downpour, union members put up a spirited protest with songs and slogans against Maybank’s alleged high-handedness and abuse of workers’ rights.
They also highlighted the existence of an ‘income gap’ and absence of a performance bonus.
Passing motorists honked their horns in support, with the loudest noise coming from buses full of workers who were going home.
The police did not interfere in the picket, while Maybank security personnel – who had reportedly been meddlesome in the past – also kept their distance.
Solomon said industrial action would continue for as long as Maybank ignores the union’s legitimate grouses.
“How can the prime minister ask the private sector to help to bridge the income gap when a government-linked company (Maybank) is not (setting) a good example?”
He recounted how Maybank had dismissed two union officials – vice-president Abdul Jamil Jalaludeen and treasurer Chen Ka Fatt – for taking part in a protest by holding a banner reading ‘Maybank robs poor workers’ in Geneva, Switzerland, at a UN International Labour Organisation meeting last year.
Their credit cards were cancelled upon their dismissal on Jan 31, he said.
Objection to in-house union
Nube is also unhappy with the Maybank management for setting up an in-house union.
Solomon claimed there was pressure on the 5,000 Nube members in the bank to resign and join the new privileged union with 2,000 other non-unionised employees.
“This is an attempt to weaken Nube,” he said, adding that employees of other banks were in solidarity with Nube against attempts to divide them.
He said he was also aware that the authorities could take measures to frustrate the union’s intention to strike, as in the past.
The human resource minister has, for instance, already referred Maybank’s dismissal of the two Nube officials to the Industrial Court. Any matter before the court cannot be used as an issue to go on strike.
“We cannot go on strike on (this) case, but we can on other labour matters. Malaysia should follow the Indonesia’s practice of paying the salaries of the workers dismissed until their case is adjudicated,” said Solomon.
The director-general of trade unions may also invoke his powers to cancel any strike on pain of deregistration.
If this happens, noted Solomon, it would run contrary to the preamble of the Industrial Relations Act, which is to promote industrial harmony.
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