KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak has told the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) to be more flexible over the issue of contract labour, which the group insists would be “a return to slavery”, Sinar Harian reported today.
This comes after the umbrella body for the country’s labour unions protested against proposed amendments to the Employment Act saying the changes would give the green light investors to hire Malaysians as contract workers instead of permanent staff.
The Malay daily quoted MTUC vice-president Mohd Roszeli Majid as saying that Najib had met with MTUC leaders in Parliament on Thursday and told the workers group not to be too “rigid” on the issue and to understand the labour needs of the country.
The paper added that Najib (picture) had agreed in principle that contract labour should be hired directly and not through middlemen.
Mohd Roszeli was also reported to have said that MTUC lodged a formal request with the prime minister to abandon the proposed amendments to the Employment Act.
Labour unions have accused the government of bringing back “slave-like” conditions with the amendments which allegedly erode protection for workers.
They said that the amendments would allow employers to hire contract labour through third party agencies and claimed it would be no different from “bonded labour”.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said however that the amendments were proposed to enable the ministry to protect local plantation workers and not to endorse contract work at the expense of permanent jobs.
The minister said that the amendments were crafted after years of lobbying by the National Union of Plantation Workers, following a cases where plantation workers were abused by employers.