M’sian trade unionists optimistic as HR minister’s new aide signals boost for workers’ rights

TRADE unionist Chee Yeeh Ceeu has been appointed as a special duties officer to the newly appointed Human Resources Minister Steven Sim Chee Keong. The move is seen as a significant recognition of the trade union movement’s contributions to workers’ rights in the country.

Chee, a general council member of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and the general treasurer of National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) expressed his surprise at the appointment, stating that it conveyed a sense of satisfaction for the long-overdue recognition of the movement.

“It was a surprise to me,” he told Malaysiakini, adding that the appointment conveyed a sense of satisfaction that the movement was receiving the recognition it deserved after all these years.

Despite the unexpected nature of the appointment, Chee noted his commitment to workers and the conscientious neutrality required by his new role.

“My responsibility will expand union participation in policy-making, ensuring it is not limited to a select few but involves a larger number of unions. The most important thing in my mind is to continue to do my best for workers.

“The minister (Sim) has reminded me of the need to remain neutral, a practice I have followed for 15 years as a union member and leader when dealing with employers’ complaints against union members,” said Chee.

Moreover, he reassured employers that his appointment should be viewed positively, pointing out his extensive experience in employer engagement and his alignment with workers’ interests rather than any particular trade union.

The appointment has received widespread support from various labour groups.

Meanwhile, Union Network International-Malaysia Labour Centre (UNI-MLC) president Mohamed Shafie BP Mammal commended Sim’s choice, stating that it reflects the minister’s courage to make changes that benefit workers.

“Usually ministers appoint their aides from their respective political circles, but we view Sim’s prudent choice of a trade unionist as his investment in workers’ interest,” said Shafie.

Moreover, Shafie expressed confidence that Chee’s trade union experience would provide valuable insights into crucial issues, including recent amendments to the Trade Union Act 1959.

“The amendments may have been passed in both houses of Parliament, yet there is still room for precise interpretation and application of these amendments,” said Shafie.

Other trade union leaders including Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) president Mohd Effendy Abdul Ghani and The Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) president Datuk Dr Adnan Mat also welcomed Chee’s appointment, seeing it as an honour to the trade union movement during a period of significant changes in the country’s labour policies.

Furthermore, Chee’s appointment is seen as a positive step towards increased worker participation in policymaking at the ministerial level. – Dec 22, 2023

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