Trade Unions 101: All about Trade Unions in Malaysia

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Trade Unions play an integral role in balancing the power between the corporate masters and the proletariat. Through trade unions, wage-earners can collectively advocate for better working conditions, remuneration and legislative changes within a trade, profession or industry.

What is Trade Union in Malaysia?

A trade union, as defined under the Trade Union Act1, is an association comprising both the employees and employers within a particular trade, occupation or  industry to2:

  1. Regulate and promote good working relationship within the employees and employers;
  2. Represent either the employee or employer in a trade dispute;
  3. Improving the working conditions of an employee; and /or
  4. Ensuring that members of the trade union are provided for during a strike or lock-out.

In Malaysia, all employees have the right to join and form a trade union3. In this regard, an employer cannot4:

  1. Prevent or limit their employees from joining or forming a union by imposing conditions in their contract;
  2. Refuse to employ a person because he is/ is not a member of a union;
  3. Discriminate any employees in regard to promotion, working condition or conditions of employment because the employee is a member/ not a member of a union;
  4. Dismiss or threaten to dismiss5, injure or threaten to injure the employee’s employment, or alter or threaten to alter the employee’s position simply because he participates in a trade union.

trade unions in malaysia

Importance of Trade Unions in Malaysia

For Employees:

  • The union provide a collective forum for the employees of a particular trade, occupation or industry to voice out their grievances and concerns regarding their working conditions in their workplace;
  • The union represents its members in negotiating with their respective employers to obtain better working conditions and also to represents them in legal disputes with the employers (especially in cases where an employee is unfairly or unjustifiably dismissed);
  • Alternatively, trade unions can mediate disputes between employees and employers, thus saving time and cost for both parties as compared to litigating the dispute in court. Mediation usually allows for better chances of a win-win situation for both parties;
  • Trade unions can represent members in seeking legislative redress or betterment of trade practices by airing out its members’ collective grievances through various means, provided requirements to such means are satisfied6.

For Employers:

  • A trade union may help employers with its recruitment pipeline;
  • As stated supra, trade unions can also help employers save time and cost by mediating employment disputes;
  • Some trade unions provide training for wage-earners for trade, occupation or industry-specific continued professional development; and
  • Trade unions empower employees by providing advocacy support for better working conditions with healthier trade practices. This may, in turn, promote better efficiency and productivity across the industry.

How to Register a Trade Union in Malaysia

Registering a Trade Union

Make an application with the Director-General of Trade Union (‘Director-General’) by submitting Form B7 that is signed by at least seven members of the union8, coupled with9:

  1. The prescribed fees;
  2. A printed copy of the rules of the trade union (in the national language) signed by members of the union making the application. The application must state10:
    1. The names, occupations, and addresses of the members making the application;
    2. The name of the trade union and the address of its head office; and
    3. The titles, names, ages, addresses, and occupations of the officers of the trade union, other information that the Director-General requires from the union.

Registering a Federal Trade Union

A Federation of Trade Union is formed when two or more registered trade unions in Malaysia with members in a similar trade, occupation or industry decide to band together to uphold the interest of their members. There are certain requirements that a union needs to adhere to before a federal trade union can be registered, namely11:

  1. Notify the Director-General and all members of the union of such intention to create a federal trade union via a proposed resolution;
  2. Such notification must be done not less than 14 days prior to the general meeting for the proposed resolution; and
  3. Each respective unions have obtained consent via a majority vote in a general meeting to form a federal trade union.

Once the above requirements are satisfied, the individual making the application should submit Form BB12 with the Director-General within one month from the formation of the federal trade union13. The application must also be signed by the secretary and seven members of each trade union who wishes to form the federal trade union14.

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1. 1959.
2. Section 3 (c)(i) – (iii), Trade Union Act 1959.
3. Section 4 Industrial Relation Act 1967.
4. Section 5(1), Ibid.
5. Han Chiang High School/Penang Han Chiang Associated Chinese School Association v. National Union of Teachers in Independent Schools, W. Malaysia & Industrial Court of Malaysia [1990] 1 ILR 473.
6. Section 25A, Trade Union Act 1959.
7. http://jheks.mohr.gov.my/index.php/recources/download.
8. Section 10 (1), Trade Union Act 1959.
9. Section 10 (2), Ibid.
10. Section 10 (2)(a) – (c), Ibid.
11. Section 72, Trade Union Act 1959.
12. http://jheks.mohr.gov.my/index.php/recources/download.
13. Section 73 (1), Trade Unions Act 1959.
14. Section 73 (2), Trade Unions Act 1959.


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