Malaysian workers come out in force against Employment Act

Picketers in Section 15, Shah Alam

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress nationwide picket begins today. The MTUC is protesting proposed amendments to the Employment Act 1955, especially the proposal to amend the term “sub-contractor for labour” to “contractor for labour” under Section 2 because it takes away protection of the rights of contract labourers. Instead, the agencies supplying workers to a third party under the contract for labour would become employers of the workers;

The implications of this are that workers will not have job security as they would be under the contractor’s payroll and not be under the main employer; and, there will also be discrimination in the workplace as not all workers will enjoy the same wages, benefits and rights despite doing the same work.

The MTUC contends that the proposed amendment will also remove the obligations and duties of employers towards their workers; and, that labour suppliers are allowed to gain commission from the wages of workers.

MTUC President arrives in front of KWSP building at Jalan Raja Laut

5.00PM Kuala Lumpur:  200 workers converge in front of the KWSP (EPF) Building to express their discontent over the amendment.

Gathering as early as 5pm, the group is accompanied by top Pakatan Rakyat and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leaders.

Among those present are DAP veteran and Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang, Sibu MP Wong Ho Leng, Kuala Krai MP Mohd Hatta Ramli and PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan.

Pakatan leaders picketing with the workers at Jalan Raja Laut

The group chants, “Withdraw the amendment”, “Long live MTUC” and “Minister step down” in reference in Human Resource Minister S Subramaniam whose discussion with the MTUC has been at a stalemate.

They also put up some 10 banners condemning the amendment while others carry placards reading “Don’t pawn workers’ rights” and “Minister cheats workers”.

Meanwhile, PKR in solidarity with MTUC has also planned its own protests in four locations at Kuala Langat, Shah Alam, Hulu Selangor and Klang.

The amendment to the Employment Act was passed in Parliament on Oct 6 after last-ditch negotiations between MTUC and the government fell apart.

Union members from Melaka

515PM Melaka: Some 400 union members picket in Melaka. Azlan Tajuddin, the MTUC branch secretary for the state, says that the government should take heed of the union demands because it will affect the future of our children.

530PM Petaling Jaya: The group in PJ is led by MTUC secretary-general Abdul Halim who estimates that the number of participants in the picket nationwide is close to 10,000.

Picketers standing along Jalan Barat, Petaling Jaya (opposite PJ Hilton)
Senator Syed Husin Ali shakes hands with picketers at Jalan Barat, Petaling Jaya
Also present to share their solidarity are Senator Syed Husin Ali, Selayang MP William Leong, PJ Selatan MP Hee Loy Sian, PKR vice president N Surendran and human rights group Suaram chairperson K Arumugam.

525PM Kota Kinabalu: The MTUC picket begins! Catherine Jikunan from MTUC Sabah division reports that “we are about to begin our picket but the police OCPD are trying to stop us from conducting the picket.”


Police getting ready to stop the picketers in Kota Kinabalu

534PM Kota Kinabalu: OCPD ACP Ahmad Sofi arrives at the Tang Dynasty Hotel, where approximately 30 to 40 people have gathered.

Picketers in Kota Kinabalu defying the police orders to disperse

537PM Johor Bahru: About 150 protesters from 27 unions are picketing at Kampung Pasir along the Skudai highway. An equal number of police personnel is present. The picket is headed by the Johor MTUC chairman, Tan Eng Hong, who is also the president of NUBE (National Union of Banking Employees). They are protesting against two amendments to the Employment Act, relating to overtime payment and allowing companies to outsource labour from third parties rather than employing them directly.

Picketers with placards in Johor Bahru
Johor Bahru unionists make their demands known

545PM Johor Bahru: Protesters are being advised to move to an inner road to continue their picket for safety reasons. More people are joining the picket after rushing from their places of work. Tan says the union expects more than 300 people to join the picket.

Picketers in Seberang Perai, Penang

547PM Seberang Perai: 1,000 people are picketing in front of Padang Kilat, near Pearl View Hotel, Seberang Prai, spread all along the road. Members of the Angkatan Muda Keadilan are seen joining the picket. There is a slight commotion reported between the AMK members and the police.

AMK members with the picketers in Seberang Perai

Penang MTUC secretary K.Veeriah says the workers condemn the amendments, and that the Federal Government is “totally irresponsible” towards workers.

He adds that the new law would institutionalise contract workers and eventually result in principal employers washing their hands of their obligations towards those who work for them.

Picketer holding a small poster near Padang Kilat, Seberang Perai

“There will be third parties who will handle the contract workers and the amendments also provide for the workers’ pay to be deferred for a month,” he tells reporters.

“What happens when the contractor runs out of money or if they decide to terminate the workers?” he asks.

State MTUC chief S Ravindran says that more actions are planned to increase awareness of workers on the impact of the amendments. Ravindran says the picket is necessary so that the amendments can hopefully be stopped at the Senate level of Parliament, after probably being passed by the Dewan Rakyat.

Picketing union members under the watchful eyes of the police in Kuantan
Union members in Kuantan

550PM Kuantan: Some 200 union members gather in Kuantan.

556PM Kota Kinabalu: Twenty trade union members who have come to picket carrying banners and placards are given 10 minutes to disperse by the Kota Kinabalu OCPD. All picketers are asked for their IC numbers.

600PM Seberang Perai: The picket has gone on for about 90 minutes but at 6pm, police intervene and asked the MTUC leaders to disperse the crowd, which they refuse to do. Veeriah says he had told the “boss” that the picket would continue until 6.30pm and that the police should not “harass” the workers before that to end the event.

602PM Kota Kinabalu: Five protesters are arrested and brought to the Karamunsing police station but are released soon after union officials intervene.

629PM Kota Bharu: Some 200 picketers turned up for the MTUC picket near Kota Bharu trade center.

Picketers in front of Kota Bharu trade centre

630PM Petaling Jaya: More than 300 union members are present at Jalan Barat (opposite the Hilton Petaling Jaya). The picket ends without any untoward incident. Police ensure safety and to control traffic.

630PM Seberang Perai: No untoward incident takes place, and 6.30pm, the crowd dutifully disperses.

Reported by

Johor Bahru : Steven Chen and Vijay Kumar Rahman
Melaka : Elissa Helmy
Kuala Lumpur : R. Rajeswary, Tan Kai Swee and Azmi Abu Bakar
Penang : Lim Boo Seng, Syaril Kamaruddin and Chee Yeeh Cheu
Kota Bharu : Lim Hock Seng
Kota Kinabalu : Jeffery George