BWI meeting with Malaysian labour minister propels SFI case


On 12 September a BWI delegation led by BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson met with the new Malaysian Minister of Human Resources, M Kula Segaran, leading to a major breakthrough on the 30-year struggle of workers at Sabah Forest Industries (SFI) for union recognition. 

“We had a wide-ranging meeting that demonstrates the new Minister has a much stronger commitment toward protecting workers’ rights and even promoting trade unionism”, said BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson, who was present in the meeting. “The progress that we have managed to achieve in only one meeting on the SFI case is particularly promising for the future of the Malaysian labour movement.”

In October 2017 the Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union (STIEU) cleared the final legal hurdle preventing them from holding a secret ballot to attain union recognition in SFI, however, the written decision was never made available. 

The Minister’s swift intervention has allowed STIEU to circumvent the need for a written decision, and this morning STIEU General Secretary Engrit Liaw met with the Department of Industrial Relations who have made arrangements to prioritise the election process.

“We are grateful for the swift cooperation of the Minister, and hope that this signals a new direction for trade union rights in Malaysia,” said Liaw. “While there is a lot of work that still needs to be done in our industry, the long-term solidarity that STIEU members have demonstrated provides a solid base to continue the development of our union.”