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MTUC, comprising of 390 of 692 labour unions nationwide and with 802,323 members, went ahead with its picket against amendments to the Employment Act that were approved by Parliament on October 6. MTUC president Khalid Atan said MTUC picketed at about 18 locations, including the one held near the Esso/Shell Station, Jalan Prai near Chai Leng Park in Butterworth yesterday.
Many labour unions have accused the government of bringing back “slave-like” conditions with amendments to the Employment Act that erode protection for workers. Contrastingly, Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam has repeatedly defended the move as one that protects workers.
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
- the agencies supplying workers to a third party under the contract for labour would become employers of the workers;
- workers will not have job security as they would be under the contractor’s payroll and not be under the main employer
- discrimination in the workplace will occur as not all workers will enjoy the same wages, benefits and rights despite doing the same work.
- it 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.
The picket in Butterworth started at about 5 p.m. Despite the rain, about 500 MTUC members and activists gathered to show their discontent and objection to the amendments. Soon, the crowd swelled to about 1000. Most of the picketers braved the rain with umbrellas and raincoats and were visibly upset as they carried placards and banners that voiced their concerns.
The strains of "Bantan/Mansuh Pindahan" and "Tarik Balik Pindahan" resounded through the air as hearts were united in this public show of objection to the amendments.
Also present at the picket was State MTUC secretary K Veeriah who reiterated that the body was concerned about any failure to clamp down on discrimination and exploitation of workers.
Former state executive councillor Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon and PKR member Badrul Hisham Shaharin also known as Chegubard were also there in solidarity with the other picketers.
More actions are planned to increase awareness of workers on the impact of the amendments on ordinary workers. The picket was necessary in the hope that the amendments can be stopped at senate level, after being endorsed by Parliament.
No untoward incident took place during the event despite police presence. By 6.30pm, the crowd dutifully dispersed.