Saturday, February 19, 2011

GLCs and Govt to talk wages


DEBAK: The Government will hold discussions with the management of plantations run by government-linked companies (GLCs) on the restructuring of wages for plantation workers.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said workers deserved improved wages as commodities like palm oil were fetching good prices.

He added that many plantation workers received wages that were below the country’s poverty level.

“The Cabinet decided last week to start talks with GLCs, beginning with Sime Darby because it has the largest number of plantations,” he told reporters after performing Friday prayers at Masjid Darul Solihin here yesterday.
Meeting the people: Muhyiddin greeting local residents during a walkabout in Pusa town, Sri Aman division, Friday.

He added that the talks with the GLCs would be handled by the Human Resources Ministry’s wage consultative council, which was formed to look into the implementation of minimum wages for all sectors.

Muhyiddin was responding to a request by Beting Maro assemblyman Bolhassan Di that the Government review plantation workers’ wages, especially in his constituency.

Bolhassan said the low wages had forced many workers in his area to seek work in Johor and even Singapore.

Friday, February 18, 2011

MEF takes NUBE to task for blithe statements

MEF refers to the article entitled ‘Nube slams bosses group over statement’ which appeared on Page B4 of the Business Times section of The New Straits Times newspaper on Dec 14, 2010.
On the issue of retirement age, MEF is of the position that employers should continue to be given the flexibility to manage its own employees and not be compelled by law to comply with a stipulated age of retirement.
Whilst the government had decided to raise the retirement age of employees in the public sector from 55 to 58 years, employers in the private sector should be allowed to retain its discretion to decide on retirement age as has been the practice in the past.
The fact remains that although the law does not stipulate any age of retirement for private sector employees, the majority of employers have retained their staff on fixed term contract beyond the age of 55 years.
It is absurd for the National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) to criticise MEF’s position on retirement age. It must be noted that Article 34 of the Collective Agreement between the Malayan Commercial Banks’ Association (MCBA) and NUBE which was signed on Aug 10, 2010 did not provide for automatic extension of retirement age to 57 years. Article 34 (1) (c) of the collective agreement provides that:
“... an employee may apply to extend his/her retirement age ... Such application shall be made at least 3 months prior to their retirement age and the Bank shall subject to business requirement and the employee’s health condition approve the application and the retirement shall be extended until the employee attains the age of 57...”
On the issue of maternity leave, the government, in all its infinite wisdom, had decided not to ratify Convention 183 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Maternity Protection which provides for maternity leave entitlement for not less than 14 weeks.
In Malaysia, a minimum of 60 days maternity leave is guaranteed by law in Section 37 of the Employment Act 1955 and it is the employer which pays the full monthly wages during the entire 60 days maternity leave for up to five surviving children. In contrast, maternity benefits in other countries are jointly supplemented by the employer, government and/or social security.

Based on MEF study, employers pay about RM2.2 billion annually for 60 days maternity leave where the cost of maternity leave per day is about RM36.8 million. Should maternity leave be extended to 90 days based on the present arrangement, employers would then be required to fork out an additional RM1.1 billion per year for maternity leave pay. The additional cost would pose unreasonable burden on employers and severely impact the overall level of productivity and competitiveness of the nation.
On the matter of the presence of lawyers in the MEF Council, it must be noted that they are representatives of law firms which are members of the MEF who were elected by MEF members to the MEF Council. For NUBE to accuse lawyers in the MEF Council to be only interested in escalating industrial disputes is erroneous and defamatory.
As the apex employer organisation in Malaysia, MEF would like to affirm that the national interest is central to the cause of the Federation which supports the creation of a high‐income economy based on higher productivity and increased performance of the employee. Presently, MEF is involved in many of the platforms of various government ministries and agencies in charting the way forward, including PEMUDAH, PEMANDU and the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC). For NUBE to allege that MEF was working against the government’s New Economic Model (NEM) to transform Malaysia into a high‐income nation is puerile and malicious in nature.

For further information, contact the MEF Secretariat at 03‐7955‐7778 or fax 03‐7955‐9008.
HJ. SHAMSUDDIN BARDAN Executive Director
22 DECEMBER 2010

Discontinue Threats and Action Against Charles Hector, Blogger and Human Rights Defender, for highlighting plight of workers.

Media Statement - 18/2/2011

The Union is appalled by the reaction of Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn.Bhd., a subsidiary of Asahi Kosei Japan Co. Ltd, in going after persons who highlighted the plight of Burmese migrant workers who work in the company’s factory. We call for the immediate withdrawal of the threat of a legal suit demanding RM10,000,000-00 from Mr. Charles Hector for highlighting worker rights and human rights violation that were happening to the said 31 workers.

In response to legitimate grievances raised by the said workers, which included non payment of wages as agreed, wrongful imposition of a ‘fine’ for absence from work, and unlawful deductions from wages, the response was to use threats on these workers, deprivation of electricity and other utensils at the living quarters of these workers, and the threat to terminate and even send them back to Burma.

Now, the company seem to be denying all allegations, even to the extend of saying that these are not their workers, and that these were not workers under the ‘direct payroll’ of Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn. Bhd. They allege that all the affected workers were supplied by an outsourcing agent, and in short, they seem to say that they are not responsible for these workers or what happened to them.

It is our position that all workers working at any factory and/or workplace must be directly employed by the said company operating the said factory. It matters not how you got your workers, but the moment they do start working they become your workers, and the employer, in this case Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn. Bhd., is fully responsible for these workers. The company should pay salary directly to the worker, and ensure that all workers working for them enjoy all rights, benefits and other entitlements due to workers under the employer-worker agreements, collective bargain agreements covering the said factory, and existing rights guaranteed under the Malaysian law to workers.

Workers working in a factory should also have the right to join the said factory’s in house union, and also regional/state/national unions covering the sector in which the factory operations come under.

It is very wrong, and certainly anti-worker anti-trade union if employers can shirk responsibilities justly owed by the said employer, by stating that these migrant workers were not under the direct payroll of the company, but under the employ of some other person and/or company.

Workers working at any particular factory should all be paid directly by the said company, and not through any other third party. All workers who work in a particular factory should be accorded equal treatment, and that includes equal pay for equal work, and also equal entitlement of rights.

The Malaysian Federal Constitution guarantees equality, and even the Employment Act 1955, in section 60L, clearly promotes anti-discrimination of workers, and gives the right of all workers, whether local and/or foreign, the right to lodge complaints in the event of discrimination on the basis of nationality of the said worker.

The power that workers and trade unions have when it comes to dealing with their employers is worker action, which includes strikes, and if Malaysian government permits a new class of workers to be working at a workplace, who are workers of some other third party, then it just weakens the power of workers and/or their unions in demanding for better rights and benefits from their employers.

The Malaysian government tried to legalize the practice of using workers of some third parties at the workplace by the introduction of ‘contractors of labour’, through D.R.25/2010 Employment (Amendment) Bill 2010, that was tabled in Parliament in July 2010 but due to public pressure, this Bill was withdrawn.

Malaysian Trade Union Congress have also came out repeatedly against this practice of using workers of third parties, and has called for an immediate revocation of licences of all labour outsourcing companies. Since demands made by unions to the Malaysian government, has yet to bear fruit, maybe it is time for MTUC and other trade unions to take this obviously pro-employer government to court on this matter.

It may be alright for agents and companies to assist companies in identifying and providing workers for companies, but the moment the companies accept these workers, there must immediately be an employment agreement and relationship with all these workers directly and the said company. The workers thereafter are the workers of the said company, and the company shall be fully responsible for the recognition and protection of all worker rights.

Any good company that respects universally accepted human rights and worker rights will not resort to using workers of another at their factories, and will not shirk their responsibilities to their workers with claims that they are not their workers, and when there are allegations worker rights violations to try divert this responsibility to workers to some other third party.

The current action of Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn. Bhd., in attempting to go after human rights defenders, worker rights activists and advocates, in this case Mr Charles Hector, with threats of a legal suit is so wrong and against public interest. The intention here seems to be an attempt to silent concerned persons and organizations from highlighting worker rights and human rights violations in an effort to stop further violations, and ensure that justice is done.

Allegations of human rights worker rights violation should rightly be dealt with by companies through negotiations with workers and/or trade unions, using the available mechanisms that are available, and not by targeting those that highlight these violations be it bloggers, media agencies, civil society organizations or even individuals, who do have a moral obligation and duty to bring to public notice any perceived wrongdoing, human rights violations and worker rights violations.

We note also that this matter of rights violation at Asahi Kosei, is the subject matter of a Joint Media Statement, currently endorsed by about 80 civil society organizations.

We call for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of this threat of a legal suit and/or any legal action (if it has already been commenced) against Charles Hector.

We call on Asahi Kosei(M) Sdn. Bhd., to also take direct and full responsibility for all workers working in their factory, and not try to shift blame to some other third party. We hope that Asahi Kosei(M) Sdn. Bhd., do the needful, including reinstating the 2 migrant workers that have been stopped from working by reason of their refusal to sign a new ‘contract’ forced on them.

Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud

Executive Secretary of National Union of Transport Equipment & Allied Ind.Workers
(Former President of Malaysian Trades Union Congress- MTUC)

Syed Shahir can be contacted: Tel. 603- 55192421/55193860. Fax: 603-55106863

'Foreign workers to enjoy same minimum wage as locals'

Submitted by Najiah on Monday, February 14th, 2011
Monday, February 14th, 2011 21:22:00

PUTRAJAYA: Foreign workers may enjoy a minimum wage salary scale just like local workers if the private sectors minimum wage model is implemented, said Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam.

Subramaniam said the current wage scale for foreign workers was determined by market forces and expected to continue until the government decides on the minimum wage implementation.

"Any request to implement the minimum wage system now cannot be entertained before the implementation because Malaysia does not have a structured minimum wage model for local workers," he told reporters after closing a minimum wage laboratory to gather feedback from all stakeholders, here today.

Subramaniam who was asked to comment on Indonesian media reports that requested the Malaysian government to set a minimum wage scale for Indonesian maids said: "When there is no minimum wage structure for local workers, the government cannot allow a minimum wage request for foreign workers."

He added that the only sector that offers a similar wage scale for local workers and foreign workers was the plantation sector.

Asked why it was taking the government such a long time to decide on the minimum wage scheme, Subramaniam said it was a major policy issue that needed an in-depth study before any decision was made.

"We have gathered feedback and data from various government agencies. We now have a complete picture of the various sectors involved and details that can be used by the government to decide.

"The salient points from the discussions during the lab will go towards the drafting of the regulations governing the National Wage Consultative Council, which will be tabled in Parliament," he said.

Minimum wage: 'It must be equality for local and foreign workers'

Submitted by Najiah on Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 11:50:00

PETALING JAYA: Never mind foreign workers, there should be no minimum salary set even for locals, said the Malaysian Employers Federation.

Stating the body's opposition to the government's move to impose a minimum wage of RM900 for both locals and foreigners, its president Samsuddin Baradan said: "We do not agree with a minimum wage for workers at both public and private sectors, including foreign workers.

"Instead, we suggest employers and employees of discuss the basic salaries. That would be fairer to both parties.

"Employers should decide on wages based on each one's skills and performance. When employers fail to pay what an employee expects, that employee has the option to leave."

On suggestion such situations could result in unhappy employees, Samsuddin said: "That is not the entire true situation, as some employers are willing to pay more to keep them."

Security Services Association of Malaysia president Datuk Shaheen Mirza Habib was also not in favour of foreign workers receiving a minimum wage, describing it as way of letting money out of the country and is thus wasteful.

"If foreigners are paid a minimum wage, most of their income get sent home to their families.

"Based on qualification and skills, Malaysians are ahead and they should be paid accordingly. There should be no comparison."

Asked whether the association was happy with the government setting the RM700 minimum wage for security guards, he said: "We agreed with the decision and came to an understanding and are happy with it.

"But, we are still waiting for the Human Resource Ministry to draft the implementation formula for the RM700 minimum wages to benefit security guards. This resulted in government and private sector clients holding off contract renegotiations because they are waiting for the gazette to be used as a guideline.

"We believe the implementation would be done soon as the government reserved RM270 million for the benefit of the security industry."

Association of Foreign Maid Agencies president Alvi Bavutty said: "Let the government have a discussion with us and only then would we comment on the matter."

On Monday, Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said foreign workers may enjoy the same salary scale as local workers if the private sector's minimum wage model was implemented.

Subramaniam said the current wage scale for foreign workers was determined by market forces and expected to continue until the government decided on the minimum wage implementation.

This plan was supported by Malaysian Trades Union Congress deputy president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamad, who believed foreign workers should be included in the government plan for basic minimum salaries.

"Most of these foreign workers slog for our country and they should receive a minimum wage."

He said MTUC was firm in its commitment for the minimum wage in the country to be fixed at RM900 with a cost of living allowance of RM300.

The congress has been campaigning for the minimum wage of RM900 since 2000, stating the absence of a specific provision in the Employment Act 1955 has led to widespread exploitation of workers.

MTUC president Mohd Khalid Atan agreed. "Minimum wages must be applied to all workers, including foreigners."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stop Undermining Unions, Says MTUC

PETALING JAYA, Feb 17 (Bernama) -- Employers should not undermine legitimate trade unions from carrying out their tasks in order to maintain and strengthen the country's 10-year harmonious industrial relations record, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said on Thursday.

Its president Mohd Khalid Atan said there had been no strike or union agitation on a large scale in the country since 2001.

This was largely due to the responsible national trade union leadership which preferred peaceful negotiations rather than confrontation with the employers, he said.

However of late, employers were "using unethical and underhand tactics" to weaken trade unions, Khalid told Bernama.

"Their favourite ploy was to encourage the setting up of in-house unions consisting of workers who are aligned to them to subvert and sabotage legitimate national unions," he said.

This, he said, was an indirect means of union busting which was frowned upon by ethical and worker-friendly organisations around the world.

"In the long term such tactics would back fire on the employers as workers would be disillusioned with the empty promises given by management to in-house union officials who were beholden to the bosses," he added.

Khalid said one of its affiliates, the National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE), was now facing a similar situation with a local bank where an in-house union had been set up with the blessings of the management.

"We understand that NUBE officials were prevented from carrying out their task (in the bank) and preference was given to the in-house union," he said.

Khalid said the Registrar of Trade Unions should carry out an immediate investigation as this was a "dangerous precedence and if allowed would undermine the national unions.

NUBE is the oldest and largest trade union in the financial sector in Malaysia and represents about 40,000 of the 70,000 workers in the sector.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Malaysia Seeks World Bank Help to Cut Spending, Trim Deficit

November 11, 2010, 4:28 PM EST
By Soraya Permatasari and Barry Porter
Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Malaysia will ask the World Bank to help in the country’s efforts to cut government spending as Prime Minister Najib Razak seeks to reduce the budget deficit from a 22-year high.
The nation is asking the Washington-based lender to review all areas of government expenditure, including how state contracts are awarded, to prevent waste from inefficiency, Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said in an interview in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Malaysia hopes the study will bolster the government’s credibility, he said.
“We just want a third party as a check and balance,” said Ahmad Husni, 58. An annual audit of spending at state agencies has shown “some negative findings and we hope that with the involvement of the World Bank, in the future we can see a clean sheet,” he said.
Narrowing the fiscal gap that dates to the Asian financial crisis more than a decade ago would help boost chances of lifting Malaysia’s credit rating, which is currently below that of China and Taiwan. Greater confidence in the Southeast Asian nation’s finances may also help bolster Najib’s efforts to lure investment and rejuvenate an economy that may be overtaken by neighboring Singapore this year.
Growth slowed to an average 4.7 percent a year in the past decade from 7.2 percent in the 1990s, when then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad developed highways and built the world’s tallest twin towers.
Halving Gap
Najib, 57, plans to halve the budget gap in the next five years by cutting subsidies, widening the tax base and reducing expenses, according to a five-year plan he unveiled in June that targeted a shortfall of 2.8 percent of GDP in 2015. The finance ministry expects the budget gap to narrow to 5.4 percent of GDP in 2011 from 5.6 percent this year.
Still, the prime minister refrained from detailing plans to reduce subsidies further or introduce a goods and services tax in his Oct. 15 budget speech.
“There was criticism that Malaysia was too light on reducing operational expenses,” said Vishnu Varathan, an economist at Capital Economics in Singapore. “Malaysia wants to show that efforts to reduce the budget deficit will be addressed promptly and that’s why they are seeking the help of an international organization.”
The government is also doing a study with a consultant to recover an estimated 5 billion ringgit ($1.6 billion) in revenue that it believes it’s failed to collect, Ahmad Husni said. He didn’t say where the additional funds will come from.
Credit Rating
Last year’s budget shortfall of 7 percent of gross domestic product was the biggest since 1987, and the country hasn’t had a surplus since 1997. Standard & Poor’s rates the country’s debt A-, the fourth-lowest investment grade that places the Asian nation below China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.
Malaysia’s credit standing “is constrained by its weak fiscal position,” S&P said in June.
The country said in October it will further postpone the implementation of a goods and services levy intended to broaden the tax base. Najib trimmed subsidies for sugar, gasoline, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas in July to save more than 750 million ringgit in government expenditure. Malaysia spends about 73 billion ringgit a year on subsidies, he said in April.
The reduction in subsidies will be done gradually, Idris Jala, a minister in the Prime Minister’s department, said in an interview in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, yesterday. The government aims to keep inflation below 4 percent even as prices rise with the subsidy cuts, he said.
Singapore Overtakes
Singapore’s GDP will rise as much as 15 percent to about $210 billion, while the economy of Malaysia will expand 7 percent to $205 billion, government forecasts show.
In September, Malaysia’s government unveiled private sector-led projects worth $444 billion that it said can spur investment. The country plans to build six highways, a mass- transit rail system and a 100-floor, 5 billion-ringgit tower in and around the Kuala Lumpur.
Gamuda Bhd. and MMC Corp., which proposed the mass-transit system, will likely be the master planners, assuming they come up with the best pricing, Ahmad Husni said. Once approved, the project will be broken down into smaller packages that will be tendered openly, he said.
The economy may expand 5 percent to 6 percent next year after growing 7 percent in 2010, according to the Ministry of Finance. Husni said the country aims to achieve 6 percent growth next year.
The World Bank said this week Asian economies may need to turn to capital controls as quantitative easing by the U.S. threatens to spur asset bubbles in the region.
Malaysia isn’t considering capital controls for now, though the central bank is monitoring inflows and officials at a recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting discussed the idea of joint, “multilateral” measures in the future should the need arise, Ahmad Husni said.
“We are benefiting from the capital inflows and the appreciation of the ringgit,” he said. “It’s not affecting our property market like many other countries.”
--With assistance from Ranjeetha Pakiam in Kuala Lumpur, Shamim Adam in Singapore, Patrick Harrington in Tokyo and Paul Allen in Hong Kong. Editors: Stephanie Phang, Chris Anstey
To contact the reporters on this story: Soraya Permatasari in Kuala Lumpur at; Barry Porter in Kuala Lumpur at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sandy Hendry at; Chris Anstey in Tokyo at

Kos peguam naik 400 peratus, kata Majlis Peguam

February 16, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, 16 Feb — Mulai tahun ini, bayaran kos guaman meningkat antara 300 dan 400 peratus iaitu daripada RM2,000 sebelum ini hingga kini boleh mencecah sehingga RM10,000, kata Presiden Majlis Peguam Ragunath Kesavan.

Beliau berkata bayaran kos ini meningkat kerana tanggungjawab yang dipikul oleh peguam semakin banyak berbanding dahulu, antaranya kini kes tidak boleh ditangguh sewenang-wenangnya.

Selain itu, kes mahkamah kini perlu diselesaikan dalam masa tiga bulan, katanya kepada pemberita selepas melancarkan projek “Start” yang merupakan pengedaran buku panduan yang komprehensif mengenai cara sebuah firma guaman dikendalikan di pejabat majlis itu di sini hari ini.

“Dulu kes sivil di Mahkamah Majistret hanya membabitkan kos sebanyak RM2,000 sekarang mungkin mencecah RM8,000 hingga RM10,000, apa lagi di Mahkamah Tinggi. Tanggungjawab peguam sekarang lebih berat,” katanya.

Mengenai program “start”, beliau berkata Majlis Peguam terpanggil untuk mengeluarkan buku tersebut yang diedarkan secara percuma kepada peguam yang memohon Sijil Amalan Guaman dan Sijil Tahunan serta peguam yang berhasrat membuka firma guaman sendiri kerana jumlah kes peguam yang dikenakan tindakan displin semakin meningkat.

“Stastistik yang diperoleh oleh Lembaga Disiplin Majlis Peguam mendapati antara 30 dan 40 peguam dikenakan hukuman setiap tahun dengan kesalahan seperti menipu pelanggan, ditipu rakan kongsi dalam sebuah firma guaman dan sebagainya,” kata Kesavan.

Selain itu, Majlis Peguam juga menerima kes di mana peguam disytiharkan muflis selepas ditipu oleh rakan kongsi mereka, dan peguam Bumiputera mendakwa mereka tidak mendapat hasil keuntungan sebagai rakan kongsi tetapi namanya telah digunakan semata-mata untuk memenuhi keperluan kuota Bumiputera yang dikehendaki oleh bank, katanya.

Beliau berkata projek buku panduan “Start” itu yang membabitkan kos kira-kira RM200,000, tidak termasuk bantuan percuma oleh peguam-peguam kanan, menjelaskan perjalanan operasi sebuah perniagaan firma guaman yang membabitkan pelanggan, wang dan perjanjian di antara rakan kongsi.

“Panduan yang diberikan dalam buku ini tidak diajar di univerisiti, antaranya ialah bagaimana untuk memulakan sebuah firma guaman, pengetahuan mengenai perkara ini sangat penting kerana cabaran yang dihadapi peguam sekarang berbeza berbanding 20 dan 30 tahun lepas,” katanya.

Buku itu dijual kepada orang ramai dengan harga RM50 senaskah, katanya.

Mengenai kenyataan Ketua Hakim Negara Tun Zaki Tun Azmi dalam akhbar The Sun pada pada Isnin lepas, yang mengatakan bahawa penangguhan kes mahkamah akan menjejaskan ekonomi negara, Kesavan berkata semua pihak membabitkan peguam, pendakwa dan hakim perlu bekerjasama dalam menangani masalah itu. — Bernama