Title: Covid 19 Stimulus for the Malaysian economy: A consultative role for newly globalized unions to play


  • Author Premkumar Nadarajan
  • Published May 6, 2021
  • Word count 1,255

There is no denying the all important requisite of unions existing and supporting the pillars of a system of social democracy. The existence of trade unions in today’s Malaysia is pertinent to the existence of state sovereignty ; workers rights being a necessary subset in the equation and equilibrium of social union, which is the common fabric holding together the dynamics of statehood. In the realm of decision making of a state albeit in smaller way , trade unions foster and encourage as well as stand as a precedent for such decision making by being an entrenched and well accepted norm or fabric of an associational network of civil society. The decisions that unions make in respect to the interest of the workers in tandem with the needs and the welfare of the state contribute and make clear its role on self determination; which is an essential pillar of statehood. Even the small decisions of such unions help shape the more distant determinations of state and economy. This role is necessarily enhanced in today’s more networked, seemingly borderless and prima facie egalitarian society , bound and evolving in the melting pot of globalization.

The problem it seems, in simple words, is the unavoidable clash between the market or market forces/success/relations and/or economic competition policies against the communitarian stand of workers rights. Market imperialism, at its worst could be seen to be a nightmare for workers, albeit a fantasy fulfillment of the capitalist whereby the single mindedness of such imperialism necessarily confronts and compromises fundamentally, the notion of the democratic state ( and industrial democracy ) ; being advocates of privatization and laissez-faire. The ideal of the capitalist here is that of a society where all goods and services are provided by entrepreneurs to consumers. In the idea of just rewards of market success, inequality is a necessary price to pay by the consumers ( and in this case workers) ; such market forces in a capitalist ideal necessitates disorganization of workers, and where workers are not united to voice their concern, they would find themselves as helpless in the marketplace, to the great glee of the proponents of a purist market forces success. The more successful the imperialism, the greater the inequality. What such proponent perhaps fails to understand is that in Malaysia, being a pluralistic society, fundamentally dictates the necessity of the union being a legitimate member of the associational network of civil society in Malaysia. This makes it necessary and even sustainably wise to consult such a network member; the market again being embedded and entangled in a network of associations, where the forms of ownership are pluralized, ( note the Malaysian society is pluralistic in nature often termed masyarakat majmuk ), in order to legitimize a sustainable set of market relations, which would be a win-win outcome for both sides ; or in the case of a smart partnership, 3 parties namely the worker , employer and the ruling government ) .

Recently, many entrepreneurs of small and medium industries ( henceforth referred to as SMEs’) have been called to pay attention and take up the opportunity and direction and leadership given by the launching and implementation of the AEC ( ASEAN Economic Community).

The level of awareness amongst SME entrepreneurs in Malaysia, is quite low, including the knowledge about the Silk Road Initiative ( henceforth SRI ) . It is difficult for entrepreneurs to reap any benefit from various agreements and its surrounding circumstances if there is still widespread ignorance about FTAs’ ( Free Trade Agreements), the AEC and ‘SRI’. It is submitted that this is a vital gap and an opportunity for a role for unions to play as a consultative body for the best interests of the workers in Malaysia.

SMEs’ are found to play an important part of the engine to propel the growth of a national economy such as Malaysia. SMEs’ can help improve the earnings of the workers. There is a need to understand in depth the sectors that have great potential in the economic growth of Malaysia. Fundamentally, the SME plays an important role in the economy; namely to stimulate growth and rise in the economy, to aid in reducing poverty levels and to increase the basic standards of living of the people.

An increasingly flat world couples with an internet-set borderless environment seems to , on the face of it, increase and perpetuate the entrepreneurial spirit; a personality which is paid focused attention by the stakeholders of the national economy, predominantly because of the fact that it can be a pertinent driver of the economy without being held back or curtailed by details such as fixed working hours or other constraints of the ordinary working personnel.

A sustainable partnership between the Government, employers and unions/workers is essential in todays globalized world. The role of the Government as a protector and provider of the people, and in this case, workers cannot be underestimated. The metaphor of a smart partnership is being widely used here as an attempt to describe an objective of securing better co-operation and therefore competitiveness through power sharing. This is especially important with regard to the SRI, the public being generally unaware of the full ambit and details of the said agenda. Unions can play an active role as a tripartite partner with regard to the education of workers about the TPPA. Where a business or a service depends heavily for its success on its employees exercising their discretion intelligently, using all its skills and knowledge, the advantages of achieving co-operation through consultation and management by agreement become greater.

It is the humble submission of the author that sustainable globalized unions with its unique and very experienced industrial relations leaders and the special officers in the same organization are equipped to deal with the various implementations and re-education of the workers with regard to the ‘SRI’. The social knowledges’ in a political economy such as justice, otherwise in economic terms known as production in view of the common good, arise when peoples ( here, in the context , the SMEs’) ; bringing their own particular experiences to bear, actively co-operate and communicate in response to the common experience of a dynamic trade melting-pot to which the SMEs’ are exposed to, in view of recent developments such as the ‘SRI’. In general, the Malaysian SMEs’ are unique beings in a culturally diverse multiracial space; brings about a commons that is both interesting and diverse , so as to inform such industries as the SMEs’ that if this need of common good is addressed, the SMEs’ would finally gain an edge in the realm of competition ; albeit in its own form and right. By exercising the approach stated above, there would be a sustainable and enviable relationship of laws to businesses in Malaysia.

Joseph Raz a prominent philosopher in both Kant and Mill’s theories sums up the combined position of the best of both worlds in the following four precepts or principles for the business world namely: i) people’s lives are successful and fulfilling to the extent they are spent in whole hearted and successful engagement in valuable activities and relationships , ii) for most people today, autonomy is arguably an important if no the most important component of living a good life , iii) moral pluralism is favourable and iv) governments have a duty to promote the well being of people. Such unions are well aware of these fundamental precepts in labour laws and principles and is well equipped to look into the matter as to how to implement reform in a form or application/implementation suitable for the welfare of the workers.

a lecturer in a private university in malaysia. at present teaching contract law, business law, commercial laws, and company laws.

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