The recent incidents of employers defiling the democratic rights of workers to form trade unions in the electrical sectors have saddened and disturbed the Electrical Industry Workers’ Union (EIWU). The secret balloting process, which is essential for workers to exercise their legitimate rights for decent representation, has been marred by harassment, coercion, threats, and interference by company representatives. Unfortunately, such occurrences are not uncommon when workers attempt to establish trade unions at their workplaces.

It raises the question of why the balloting process is made so difficult for workers to exercise their rights for fair representation. According to recent data from the Department of Trade Union Affairs, there were only 767 trade unions in 2022, representing a mere 5.8% of the Malaysian workforce, with less than 2% of workers covered by collective agreements. These figures are not satisfactory to the EIWU, as the representation of workers’ needs should be improved, especially during times when the cost of living is escalating.

Various laws and conventions have been enacted to protect workers’ welfare and encourage their participation in trade unions. Malaysia has ratified international conventions such as the International Labour Organization’s Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention. Additionally, Article 10 of the Malaysian Constitution explicitly states that all citizens have the right to form associations, and the Industrial Relations Act 1967 grants workers the freedom to form trade unions without interference, coercion, or threats.

Despite these legal protections, there have been reported cases of workers facing undue influence and threats from irresponsible employers when they initiate the formation of trade unions. These unlawful actions by employers demonstrate a lack of respect for the law and its enforcement. Some employers even spend significant sums on consultants to hinder the formation of trade unions at the workplace. The low number of unionized employees, as indicated by the Department of Trade Union Affairs, further highlights this issue.

In light of these challenges, the EIWU calls upon the Ministry of Human Resources to review the process of forming trade unions by workers. Specifically, the Industrial Relations Regulations 2009 should be examined, as it appears to create obstacles for workers seeking to form trade unions. The EIWU suggests adopting a simplified vote counting process, similar to the one used by the Election Commission during general elections. This method calculates the percentage of votes based on the ballot papers in the boxes.

The percentage of membership required to form a trade union is then determined by the formula: number of votes indicating membership divided by the number of eligible voters. Membership strength is determined through a simple majority vote. It is important to note that many foreign workers from different countries are employed in Malaysia. During the secret balloting process, these workers often face language barriers when trying to understand the content on the ballot papers. They are also frequently subjected to threats and intimidation by employers if they engage in forming trade unions at their workplaces.

By adopting a simple vote counting process similar to the general elections, the concerns raised by workers about their rights being threatened by irresponsible employers can be minimized, and the obstacles faced in forming trade unions can be avoided. In conclusion, the EIWU reiterates its call to the Ministry of Human Resources to review and amend the necessary provisions of the law. It is crucial to safeguard workers’ freedom of association and prevent their rights from being depleted or exploited by irresponsible parties. Only then can the government truly promote the growth of trade unions in the country.

Pocket News