Workers at Ikut Maju timber factory in Tawau (Sabah, Malaysia) have voted overwhelmingly in favour of representation by the Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union (STIEU), with 69.15% of workers supporting STIEU (735 votes out of a 924 workers that voted).
“It is extremely encouraging to receive such a comprehensive mandate from the workers at Ikut Maju, this is a big stepping stone for STIEU”, said STIEU General Secretary Engrit Liaw. “We are particularly pleased that so many migrant workers felt confident to exercise their rights and vote for representation. We are determined to capitalise on this progress by securing a high quality collective agreement as soon as possible.”
Workers spoken to be STIEU organisers noted there have been ongoing issues with delayed wages and forced resignations for workers that disobey management orders. A lack of basic personal protective equipment has resulted in injuries to hands and eyes, however because these occurred amongst undocumented migrant workers (mostly from Sulawesi, Indonesia) they were unable to seek medical treatment or compensation. In some cases, migrant workers have had their passports with-held by the company, in violation of Malaysian law.
The Tawau company is owned by the Japanese company Ikeuchi Veneer, which established the factory in 1994. The company previously held FSC chain of custody certification however it let this certification lapse, apparently because the compliance requirements were too stringent.
This is an important step for STIEU, who have spent decades struggling to secure union recognition at Sabah Forest Industries (SFI). This victory follows the recent decision of the Federal Court to throw out SFI’s judicial review of previous secret ballot result. With these two achievements, the union is looking set to make major improvements for workers across the Sabah forest industry.