Ramasamy: Has HR Minister Steven Sim by-passed NUBE in his engagement with commercial banks?

HOW TRUE is the allegation by the National Union of Bank Employees Union (NUBE) that the Human Resources Minister Steven Sim Chee Keong went behind the union to sign an agreement with the Malaysian Commercial Banks’ Association (MCBA) to provide one-off half-month festival payments for banks clerical employees?

This seems to be the reason why NUBE has lodged nationwide police reports against Sim. According to the NUBE spokesman, it had an agreement with the MCBA last year for the annual festival payment of one-month salary for more than 15,000 employees of banks, mostly of whom are clerical staff.

However, for the year 2024, the MCBA had allegedly obtained a consent from Sim to pay a one-off half-month festival payment for bank clerical staff.

Apparently, such a unilateral move was not consented by NUBE which is now questioning Sim as to why he agreed to the MCBA’s request to pay one-off festival payment for the bank staff.

NUBE was fully aware that the MCBA’s reluctance to commit to yearly festival payment constituted an industrial dispute.

Taking side

Under the circumstances of an industrial dispute, Sim should have called for bi-party conciliation. If the dispute was not resolved, the matter could have been referred to the Industrial Court for adjudication.

NUBE’s question is very simple and straightforward: why didn’t Sim call both the union and the management to reconcile their differences to the 2024 festival payment?

If Sim had by-passed NUBE in concluding an agreement with the MCBA, then this clearly a breach of the industrial relations law.

When Sim was approached by the media, he refused to comment except to say that the dispute had been referred to the Industrial Court.

My question is: if Sim had so eagerly shown his ‘flying colours’ 100 day’s performance in the form of report card to the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, why is he reluctant to engage the union and the management at the same time?

Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy

Anyway, if he had engaged the management or MCBA without the presence of NUBE, then this was clearly unethical and immoral.

The crux of the matter is that government is never a neutral party when it comes to the management of the relationship between labour and employees. While this might be generally true, the government tries to be seen as neutral most of the time.

The Human Resource Ministry headed by a minister is supposed to manage the relationship between labour and employers in the best possible manner based on laws and regulations.

Failure as HR Minister

It is understandable that without the intervention of the government, there might be industrial unrests in the country.

But I am not sure whether the newly minted Sim knows about the actual role of the government in regulating the relationship between labour and employers.

If the government went along with the banks on the matter of one-off festival payments to employees, then such role fits the theoretical assumptions that the government or the state is the direct instrument of capitalists in the country.

Sim who is also the Bukit Mertajam MP was appointed as the HR Minister in the recent cabinet reshuffle exercise not because of his talents but because of his passive accommodationist qualities.

Steven Sim (left) hands over his 100-day report card to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (Image credit: Steven Sim’s Facebook)

While Sim could have highlighted his success as a minister in his first 100 days in office, he should not forget to include his failures.

His inability to resolve the industrial dispute between NUBE and MCBA will stand out as first significant failure as minister.

I had said earlier in one of my articles that Sim should not follow the footsteps of the two earlier DAP leaders who had failed as human resource ministers.

However, it seems that Sim despite his publicity seeking report card presentation might be following the footsteps of the earlier two ministers.

If Sim cannot do his job as the HR Minister, he should make way for others. Unfortunately, Anwar might not be his good example. – April 20, 2024


Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the United Rights of Malaysian Party (Urimai) interim council.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Main image credit: NUBE Facebook

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