PETALING JAYA | The human resources ministry today said it has never sidelined the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) over labour matters.

Refuting an allegation that issues discussed through the tripartite National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) had little or no input from labour or MTUC, the ministry said “this is exactly the opposite”.

It said that 10 NLAC meetings had been convened this year alone to discuss labour and industrial relations issues.

In addition, several technical committee meetings had been held as part of the consultations on the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967 (Act 177).

At these technical committee meetings, it said, MTUC and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) representatives gave their views on each clause that was to be amended or newly introduced.

The two bodies had also given separate written comments on the proposed amendments to the Act.

“MTUC occupies the workers’ seat in NLAC, and MTUC representatives also sit in the technical committees, so in what way are they sidelined?” it asked.

“It is certainly not for this ministry to ascertain whether MTUC is playing a meaningful role in NLAC or otherwise.

“It is entirely up to the affiliated trade unions to evaluate the role of MTUC’s office bearers in NLAC.

“The ministry will remain independent of MTUC’s internal affairs.”

Yesterday, DAP’s P Ramasamy called for the MTUC to be given greater freedom to engage with the state and employers on labour matters.

While MTUC wants to engage with these stakeholders “in a just and fair manner”, he said,  NLAC does not appear to be a suitable platform.

“By limiting the role of MTUC to one of consultation, NLAC has the tendency to push legislations that might not be in the interest of labour.

“MTUC faces difficulty playing a meaningful role in NLAC. There is no honest engagement of labour. Consultation means nothing for the advancement of labour rights,” he said in a statement.

In its response today, the ministry said it is unbecoming for anyone to say that MTUC or MEF was not consulted over the amendments to Act 177.

It said the amendments are aimed towards conformity to international labour standards, as demanded by MTUC in various international platforms.

It said there are 35 clauses in the bill, of which at least 18 clauses are “particularly benefiting workers”.

“MTUC should be brave enough to tell the ministry which amended clauses or new clauses will be disadvantageous or detrimental to workers and we can deliberate in the next round of amendments to Act 177,” it said.

The amendments have been approved by the Dewan Rakyat and will be deliberated by the Dewan Negara next.

Both MTUC and MEF have asked the senators to reject the amendments and send them back to NLAC for review.