PETALING JAYA: The late Khalid Atan always fought for the rights of migrant workers and believed they should enjoy the same privileges as locals, said Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general N. Gopal Kishnam.
He said the MTUC president, who passed away on Tuesday at age 63, recognised their contribution to the country’s economy.
“He always spoke about the contributions and the role of foreign workers to the country. He used to say that without them, we would not have high-rise buildings.
“He said that no workman should be prejudiced against because of their race, religion or nationality. If a local worker had an eight-hour day, so must the foreign worker. He always emphasised that,” added Gopal, who last met Khalid last Friday.
Tenaganita director Aegile Fernandez recalls Khalid’s fight for foreign workers long before he was elected to the main body of MTUC.
Describing him as a humble man without any airs, Fernandez said that Khalid helped Tenaganita in taking migrant cases in court.
“He always made sure that foreign workers were part of the collective bargaining. He always spoke out against the exploitation of both documented and undocumented workers. He believed that all of them should have the right to join trade unions,” she said.
Fernandez added that Khalid wanted undocumented workers or those without permits to have the right to seek redress in any case of exploitation.
“Historically, the union did not stand for migrant workers but he made the push for their rights,” she said.
He also pushed for the minimum wage policy, which was finally introduced in 2013, said Gopal.
Khalid was first elected MTUC president in 2010 before being re-elected in 2013.
He had fallen in the bathroom before being rushed to hospital on Tuesday morning, where he was pronounced dead.