Some of its leaders have decided to vent
their anger at critics including Fomca, giving the impression that the MTUC is unable to tolerate criticism which its unionists freely dispense almost daily though its press statements.
A little humility doesn't hurt. The MTUC
and Cuepacs represent a large number of
workers, but the unions should not take
for granted that they speak on behalf of
Neither should the MTUC leadership assume that others, including the press, have insufficient knowledge of
In respond to my comments last week,
MTUC vice-president Mustafa Hassan issued a two-page press release which, among other things, implied that I do not know anything about unionism.
In his rebuttal, Mustaffa said unionists
should be decently dressed as they
attend many international conferences and meetings.
He also explained that MTUC's
multi-pronged objectives in the
chicken boycott included encouraging consumers to look for
I thank Mustaffa for taking the trouble
to give MTUC's point of view.
Unfortunately, Mustaffa did not take the
opportunity to explain why Malaysians
were so unconvinced by the chicken boycott.
He described as “trivial'' the case of
Selangor MTUC assistant secretary K.
Somasundram who was found treating his
daughter to chicken nuggets at a
Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.
It maybe be trivial to the MTUC but for
many Malaysians it was symbolic of the
entire boycott showing lack of support
The intention by MTUC and Cuepacs to raise consumer issues is commendable. Like unionism, consumerism is
not the monopoly of consumer
Instead of calling for boycotts, it
would be better if unions can come
up with alternatives. With combined resources, they could perhaps go
into food production for its
It could also find ways for members to buy chicken or fish at better rates than
those at wet markets.
Both unions could also work with
co-operatives and organic farms to
sell their produces direct to members. They could also work with fish-rearers to beat the price rise.
A factory in Penang, for example, has encouraged its workers to plant vegetables during their free time. The
result is that at the end of the month,
they go home with their wages and free
With its strong network, both unions
could encourage factories to adopt the
The days of union rhetoric is over. The
public and members want to hear real
alternatives and solutions.
Before it proceeds with its move to
boycott fish, it should seriously
consider whether Malaysian consumers will swallow hook, line and sinker what it preaches.
There is no doubt that fish is more
expensive than chicken but it is still
at a tolerable level if a consumer cooks at home. Fish dishes at restaurants are exorbitantly priced, needless to say.
But fish prices vary greatly, depending on locality and outlet (hypermarket or
Price comparison, as anyone who has done
any marketing will tell you, can be
grossly unfair and incorrect.
At this point, the proposal to boycott fish sounds, well, fishy. On a scale of one to 10, it looks like both unions are fishing in troubled waters again.
So, what is their bone of contention?
The MTUC and Cuepacs should reconsider
their decision to call for a fresh round
of chicken boycott, which it said will
be longer and more systematic.
They have also said that a campaign would be carried out to boycott imported
rice and traders who cheat consumers and
increase price indiscriminately.
This time, the unions must make sure
their officials do not buy fillet o-fish at McDonald's.