The Future of the Trade Union Movement in Malaysia

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THE FUTURE OF THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT IN MALAYSIA Nagiah Ramasamy Universiti Putra Malaysia
Abstract

Globalisation cannot be resisted and it is here to stay. It is an economic reality and threatens the very existence of trade unionism in many countries. With globalisation come various challenges to trade unionism. This paper examines the changing environment, discusses the challenges confronting the labour movement and argues that to face the challenges ahead, leadership plays a critical role. There is a need to focus on organising the unorganised and reach out to the new generation of workers, the e-generation. Delivery of services to members is another key issue. Trade unions need to also reinvent themselves as e-organisations to survive and prosper.

1. Introduction The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of trade union development in the recent past, examine the current state of affairs and prospects for trade unionism in the future, in Malaysia. This paper examines the changing business environment and the challenges confronting the labour movement. The role of trade unionism in Malaysia is that of state-employer dominated model (Kuruvilla and Venkataratnam, 1996), which could explain the low trade union density, low trade union participation and related problems such as union formation, union recognition, union influence and union busting. This paper does not purport to answer all questions. It poses a number of questions and offers some suggestions on how the future of trade unions may be shaped. 2. Globalisation Verzola (1998) suggests that there are there periods or waves of globalization. The first wave being the period of colonialism, and followed by the post-colonial wave called the second wave of globalization. Industrial countries and global corporations would range across the globe for investment areas, industrial markets, trading partners, and sources of cheap labor and raw materials. The post-colonial powers were industrial countries in



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