The High Court here today ruled that trade unions enjoy absolute immunity from being sued under the Trade Unions Act 1959.
Judge Datuk V.T.Singham said Section 22(1) of the Act gave protection to trade unions against any suit filed in court, even if, the union representative had defamed the other party (the employer).
“Perhaps, it’s time for the legislators to seriously consider whether the tort of defamation, if committed by or on behalf of the trade union and even if it was committed in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute, should be granted the immunity protection as provided under Section 21 and Section 22 of the Act,” he said.
Justice Singham also said that it was very clear under the section that the court should not entertain any suit against trade unions.
Therefore, he struck out a defamation suit filed by Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) against the National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) and its general secretary J.Sandagran Solomon.
Justice Singham made the ruling after allowing NUBE’s application to strike out the suit on grounds that they had absolute immunity as a trade union under Section 22(1) of the Act.
Justice Singham ordered Maybank to pay RM15,000 in costs to the defendants. Maybank filed the suit on April 22 this year, claiming that Solomon, acting on his own behalf and NUBE, had in February or March this year published articles containing defamatory statements of the company on the NUBE website.
It claimed that the statements meant that the plaintiff had conducted its affairs in a dishonest manner by seeking to use funds for the sole benefit of its senior management at the expense of and in total disregard of its employees.
The defendants contended that the statements related to an ongoing trade dispute between the plaintiff and the NUBE in relation to the alleged lack of or insufficient performance bonus provided to the lower-level staff of the plaintiff.
They said the dispute had been ongoing since 2009 and was continuing to date.