We met up with the MTUC leaders lead by Syed Shahrir yesterday to discuss the amentment to the Industrial Relations Bill 2007. The MTUC leaders were disappointed because the Minister of HR gave the impression that the group was met and their views were sought prior to the draft amendment was submitted to the parliament for its 1st reading on 2nd July.
They told us that a total of 6 meetings were called by the ministry but none of the meetings specifically touched on the amendment. Hence, the government did not fulfill its tripartite commitment before making the amendment. MTUC has since pulled out from all tripartite committees.
Fong had irked the Opposition with his claim that his ministry had consulted the MTUC and the Malaysian Employers Federation over the amendments to the Act.
"I have heard both sides. Whatever, the MTUC says the MEF will oppose and whatever MEF says, the MTUC objected. We (the government) have to make a decision and we did," he said.Fong said he never offered to withdraw the Bill or make changes to amendments at a meeting with the MTUC.
"I did not give specific assurance on this. What I told them was that the amendments were not cast in stone," he said.
The MTUC had been up in arms over a ruling capping compensation for wrongful dismissal of a worker at 24 months of his salary. We have deliberated on this issue and found out that the cap can be misused by any unscrupluos party to sack a long serving employee by paying a maximum of 24 months salary under the newly approved amendment.
The amendment also takes away the discretionary power of the judiaciary to award a just compensation to any aggrieved party. The manner in which the amendment is rushed through will not benefit the government.
Moreover, it will put Malaysia's commitment to workers' protection in a regressive light. This does not augur well with the government's intention to promote Malaysia as a first-world nation.
Dr Fong must exercise his ministerial discretion and goodwill to correct this wrong. Otherwise, he will go down in history as one of the worst ministers of HR.