Representation in Court Proceeding
As per Trade Unions Act 1959, Section 25 Subsection (6), “in any civil or criminal proceedings in which a registered trade union is a party such trade union may appear in such proceedings by anyone of its officers or by an advocate and solicitor.’ To put into perspective, representation could mean someone from the union meeting with management on behalf of a member or a group of staff or discussing a problem with the employer on behalf of the employee (The University and College Union, n.d.). In other words, a trade union speak on behalf of their members, but to do so it requires either one of its officers, or by an advocate, or a solicitor, or a lawyer.
In Malaysia, an example of representation in court proceeding is, in-flight supervisors (IFS workers) represented by National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM), NUFAM as a trade union, was once represented by a lawyer, Lim Wei Jiet in a court proceeding in 2020 (Mohammad Yatim, Abdul Hafiz; The Edge Markets, 2020).
In the case of NUFAM, there exists a chance where even if the employees are represented by a trade union, there might be no actions taken by the employer for an extended period. For instance, Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB), formerly known as Malaysian Airline System (MAS), once had not recognised NUFAM as a union representing MAB’s employees since 2015; the failure to recognise NUFAM as a trade union began ever since 2015, the year MAB was formed (Mohammad Yatim, Abdul Hafiz; The Edge Markets, 2020). Besides, in 2019, according to the president of NUFAM Ismail Nasaruddin, many proposals of NUFAM fell on deaf ears and this has caused MAS to bleed through the years; in other words, the flight attendants represented by NUFAM were ignored by MAS, but this the flight attendants have right to be represented as they are members of the trade union, NUFAM.
In July 2020, Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) asserted that MAB as a government-linked company (GLC), should respect the Federal Court’s decision and grant immediate recognition of NUFAM (Thevamanohar, Areeshya; The Edge Markets, 2020).
As for the outcome of the issue NUFAM faced, following the decision of the Federal Court, the recognition process of NUFAM can proceed, with in-flight-supervisors (IFS workers) allowed to vote to recognise NUFAM as a union (Ram, B Suresh; New Straits Times, 2020). Lim Wei Jiet, the counsel for the defence of NUFAM, said that recognition is vital as a formal acknowledgement by an employer that a particular trade union has the right to represent his employees (Mohammad Yatim, Abdul Hafiz; The Edge Markets, 2020).
In Bangladesh, the right to representation exists according to the Industrial Relations Ordinance, 1969, which extends to the whole Bangladesh; however, in practice, although the law exists, the right to representation is overshadowed by trade union suppression. According to International Trade Union Confederation (2012), trade union rights in Bangladesh are not sufficiently protected by law (International Trade Union Confederation, 2012).
Based on multiple sources, there are mixed facts when it comes to trade unions in Bangladesh, positive and negative, but the negative facts are more prominent. As for the positive facts, the Industrial Relations Ordinance, 1969 of Bangladesh, Section 3(c) says that trade unions and employers’ associations shall have the right to elect their representatives in full freedom (Industrial Labour Organization, 1969). It was said since 2013, more than 14,000 workers and trade union representatives had received training on labour relations, a helpline of workers had been operational since March 2015, and 490 complaints from the RMG sector had been received between December 2015 and May 2016 through this helpline (International Labour Organization, 2016). These are not the only positive information in Bangladesh, but the negative ones are severely critical.
As for the negative facts, a representative of UNI Global Union (2016) stated that violations of freedom of association were all too common in both the garment and telecommunications sectors, the government refused to register trade unions, and workers were dismissed for trying to organize. The nation’s largest telecommunications company had dismissed 173 employees including 7 union officers the day after having learnt of the union’s existence (International Labour Organization, 2016). A study by Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies says that there is violation of worker’s rights, gender violence, and discrimination in the country’s Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector (Islam, 2018).
In 2012, a trade unionist in Bangladesh named Mr. Aminul Islam was a labour organiser for Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), a local NGO that supports the rights of factory workers in the garment and seafood industries. Mr. Aminul Islam’s work as a labour organiser for BCWS often brought him into conflict with garment factory managers. Mr. Aminul Islam reported receiving frequent threats and being under surveillance, he disappeared on 4 April 2012, and was later found dead 100 kilometres from where he was last seen (Human Rights Watch, 2017), his tortured body was exhumed, and reburied later in his native village, Kaliakoir (The New York Times, 2012). Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, Phil Robertson (2017) said that neither Aminul Islam’s family nor the public know the truth about what happened and who killed him. The critical situation indicates tense relationships between labour groups in Bangladesh (The New York Times, 2012).
The point is that the right for representation, although present in law of Bangladesh, Bangladesh has a bigger problem which is great suppression against trade unions, this weakens the right for representation in court proceeding. The tragedies in Bangladesh stated earlier are meant to emphasise that worker’s rights are almost denied entirely in the country.
The contrast between industrial relations in Malaysia and Bangladesh is that trade unions in Malaysia have their rights of representation protected, even if there is inconvenience, there is better chance workers are protected by law, whereas trade unions in Bangladesh is challenged, their right of representation in court proceeding is impaired by suppression to voice their grievances, or worse, they face persecutions, and even brutal conflicts between labour groups.
In conclusion, trade unions are autonomous, enrollment-based associations of laborers that speak to and haggle for the benefit of working individuals. Numerous associations offer types of assistance for their individuals, for example, government assistance benefits, individual legitimate assistance and monetary administrations. Associations give an instrument to discourse among laborers and managers, which assists work with trusting and duty among the labor force and guarantees that issues can be distinguished and settled rapidly and reasonably. Associations are a decent wellspring of data on work environment practice and are all around set to work with businesses to distinguish and address helpless working practices and resistance with work principles or labor standards. Unions can have a vital influence in authorizing work guidelines. Worker’s organizations give a course to laborers to report rebelliousness unafraid of backlash, thus all things considered, infringement of work codes will be accounted for. By empowering laborers to screen and improve their own working conditions in a maintainable and engaging way, worker’s guilds can help decrease reliance on social review.