Modifications to Malaysia’s Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2019 are in the final process of awaiting royal assent within the country after the initial amendments were passed in October and December of 2019. The proposed changes to the Industrial Relations Act 1967 provide necessary updates to the dispute resolution process for union disputes and claims of unfair dismissal.
First of all, a new rule has been proposed to appoint a Deputy President for the Industrial Court who will act as President of the court in any instances that the President cannot be present to oversee. Secondly, the Minister of the Industrial Court will no longer be able to refer cases of unfair dismissal to the Industrial Court. Now, the Director General of Industrial Relations will be the person appointed to refer cases of unfair dismissal to the Industrial Court. The Director General of the Industrial Court will also be able to present awards to claimants if there is the belief that the matter will not settle, in an attempt to expedite the long and drawn out dispute resolution process within the court system. By ensuring that there is no large backlog of cases blocking the judicial system, there will be an increased likelihood that claimants will be able to access justice and exercise their right to be heard in court.
Furthermore, amendments to this Bill create a number of new responsibilities for the Director General of Industrial Relations, including: receiving complaints from workers, determining which complaints and disputes will make their way to the Industrial Court and deciding which disputes can be resolved quickly with the granting of an award. Moreover, the Director General of Industrial Relations will no longer be able to refer disputes to the court that are to do with the lack of competence of a trade union in order to expedite the resolution of disputes caused by this issue.
Beyond the changes to the process in the Industrial Court, there are also some changes expected regarding how trade unions operate. These updates include changes to the timeline of making claims, how to choose which trade union will represent employees if there are two or more unions to choose from, a more concrete collective bargaining timeline, and a description of situations that would move the collective bargaining process to the Industrial Court.
Overall, these updates to Malaysia’s Industrial Relations Act of 1967 are representative of the state of the country as a whole. The percentage of workers in Malaysia that are represented by a trade union is actually quite small, so these changes will be minor in scale and won’t affect a huge population of workers in the country. However, the changes accepted are without a doubt necessary to the improvement of working conditions for trade union workers in Malaysia. These amendments to the Industrial Relations Act of 1967 continue to improve the overall working conditions of Malaysian trade workers, while reducing the overall backlog of cases presented to the Industrial Court.