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Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Malaysia as the First Male Women's Minister

Posted on 09 August 2012
 

OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER


As the first ever male Women’s Minister, can you please end gender discrimination at work place!


Dear Prime Minister,


This letter is to request you as the Prime Minister and the first ever male Women’s Minister (Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development) in the country to give a strong message to the employers and unions to stop all forms of discriminations against women at work place. While the country is moving towards a developed nation status, it is very distressing to have the women in Malaysia suffer due to discrimination laws and poor implementation.


We are referring to the injustice done to women workers in the plastic industries especially, who are bound by the companies rules and collective agreements that forces them to retire earlier than their male colleagues.

 

Women workers employed by Guppy Plastic Industries SdnBhd are one of the many.  Eleven years ago, about 20 women workers were sacked within 24 hours for the reason they have reached retirement age of 50. Eight of them challenged the employer’s decision and filed their case with the Industrial Relations Department. They were fully backed by the “all women” in house union called Kesatuan Pekerja-Pekerja Guppy Plastic Industries SdnBhd. But nevertheless, this Union like many other good unions are normally denied recognition by the said employer. Thanks to the anti Trade Union legislation.

 

The women workers won the case at the Industrial Court in 2008. The court chairman, RajandranNayagan made a laudable decision. His critical points were,


“As court of good equity and conscience, how could this court at this time and age, accept such discriminative policy. Why should women and men have different retirement ages?” “The Industrial Court will show the way and make a ruling which will be useful to society. Do you know how a civilized society is gauged?  It is gauged by how it treats women in society.”


The employer applied for judicial review at the High Court and won the case. When the workers appeal the decision at the Appeals Court, again they lost. The women have not given up. They have applied for leave application with the Federal Court. These women are now in their 60’s and some of them are very ill, yet they want to continue to fight the injustice done against them.

What are the injustices?

1.    Datuk Sri , in 2001 your predecessor end discrimination against women by incorporating ‘sex’ into Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution. The equal rights granted by the Federal Constitution were not respected by the High Court in 2010 and later the Appeals Court in 2012 in the case of the eight female employees against their forced retirement by Guppy Plastic Industries. The court views the company’s argument that they have regulations that stipulates retirement age as fair grounds to sack the workers, even though such regulations were absent in the workers contract initial agreement. It was introduced very much later to the strong objection from most of the workers.

How can we have rules or an agreement that overrides the Federal Constitution?

2.    The company rules says women employees in the company will be terminated once they reach the age of 50(Ironically some of them were even hired when they were 50 years old), as they would be prone to suffer medical problems. There was no medical proof or a report from the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) to support its argument that women above 50 are physically unfit to resume their duties yet the court accede with the company. Does that mean a company can terminate all their female staff saying they are medically unfit even when the employer has no valid medical proof to back their claims?

3.    The court judgment is also based on the fact that other industries also have similar retirement policies. Instead of challenging such discriminative policies, the court reinforces it.

4.    In the case of Guppy Industries, they had “re-hired” 90 per cent of their retired workers on an annual contract basis upon the retirement of its employees. The “re-hired” workers would no longer be entitled to the benefits offered to them when they were full-time employees.There is a big difference when you take away a person’s right as a permanent employee than a contract worker. In fact the 8 women were also offered the contract job.

5.   Malaysia has ratified several international conventions, including three UN conventions and 15 ILO conventions. Particularly, Article 11 of United Nations Convention on Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which places an obligation on Malaysia to “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment” to ensure that women have the “right to the same employment opportunities” as men. The court has failed to adhere to International Human Rights Conventions. These conventions do have force of law and binding on members states as stated by Judge DatukZalehaYusof in the case of Noorfadillabinti Ahmad SaikinvsChayed bin Basirun,Ismail bin Musa, Dr. Haji Zahri bin Aziz.

A memorandum was submitted to the de facto Law Minister on the 25th May 2012 highlighting several issues affecting women workers in Malaysia in relation to union busting activities, retirement age discrimination, and lack of adherence to international human rights conventionsas well as employers’ lack of responsibility in ensuringindustrial harmony.

 

On 13 March 2011, the Star reported that the latest Global Gender Gap report says Malaysia has fallen from its overall ranking of 72 in 2006 (when the report was first produced by the World Economic Forum) to 98 among 134 countries in 2010. It further says that Malaysia, a high middle income country, should be so lowly rated, joining the bottom quarter made up of largely Arab and African countries should be cause for urgent concern to our political leaders and policy makers and their supposed commitment to Malaysia’s economic transformation.


Therefore Sir, we are asking you to kindly advice Human Resource Ministry and the Law Ministers to ensure all laws, regulations, contracts or collective agreements that discriminates women workers to be eliminated in accordance to the Federal Constitution and CEDAW.


Sir, we invite you to visit this site, http://www.malaysiakini.tv/video/23965/the-tale-of-three-womens-struggle-for-justice-and-equality.html produced by Malaysia Kini. It tells you the story of Guppy women workers struggle since 14 years ago.


Thank you Sir, for taking some time off to read and we hope you take the right action to end discriminative policies and practices against women.

 

Letchimi Devi

 



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