Multiple trade unions can help in wage talks, says Malaysian ex-MP

Having more than one trade union would be helpful in creating a competitive environment to battle for employee rights, a former MP opined.
By: | December 11, 2023

The recent Trade Unions Act 1959 amendment, which allows the formation of multiple trade unions in Malaysia, can be beneficial to employees by improving negotiations for higher wages and fair distribution of company revenues, said Charles Santiago, former Member of Parliament for Klang. 

The former MP drew his opinion from his previous experiences in Indonesia, where multiple trade unions in a factory increased efficiency. He cited that having two or three trade unions helped to cultivate competition between trade unions to fight for the rights of the employee, such as compensation, overtime, and discrimination protection. The lack of trade unions in Malaysia, Santiago theorised, was one of the reasons for low wages in the country.

“Only when you have more members in trade unions can they negotiate and demand for higher salaries. Otherwise, the employers will take it that they’re right (about the pay),” he said.

Earlier in October, the Dewan Rakyat (lower house of the bicameral Parliament, the federal legislature of Malaysia) passed an amendment to the Trade Unions Act 1959, which would allow the formation of multiple trade unions in any establishment, trade, occupation, or industry.

This however was met with mixed reception, with criticism from parties such as the Coalition against Multiplicity of Unions, explaining that having more than one union “defeats the very concept of the unity of workers”. 

Zouhair Rosli, Socioeconomic Director of the Social Protection Contributors Advisory Association Malaysia, was another such critic, calling the multiplicity of unions would be detrimental to the Malaysian government in achieving its goals to increase wages.

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While Santiago was supportive of the newest amendment, the former MP also pushed for trade unions to actively engage with current MPs to lobby for change in employees’ rights, saying that nothing should stop unions from doing so, reported Free Malaysia Today.