The conclusion on 8 April of a collective bargaining agreement and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Corinthian Industries, the Malaysian subsidiary of U.S. multinational Jeld-Wen starts a new chapter on migrant worker organising in the company.
According to Azlan bin Yaacob, General Secretary of the Timber Employees Union of Peninsula Malaysia (TEUPM), “We are very glad to see that Corinthian are changing their ways, and, see that this collective agreement puts them towards the head of the pack amongst Malaysia’s vast furniture industry. This is just one of around a dozen sites where we are actively organising new members, forming new unions and bargaining new agreements.”
The MOU negotiated alongside with the collective bargaining agreement guarantees the growing number of migrant workers, mostly from Nepal and Bangladesh, the same rights as that of local workers. Previously, the company management had tried to prevent organisers from communicating with the migrant workers, and, had wrongly told the workers that it was illegal for them to join the union. Following a complaint filed by the union to the Industrial Relations Department, the management changed its approach and the union was able to effectively resume its organising activities.
“In the past six months the TEUPM has really taken advantage of Malaysia’s new political environment, organising hundreds of new members, mostly migrants, across the timber industry,” said BWI Asia-Pacific Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino. “We are committed to capitalising on this momentum and making sure that the Malaysian timber industry puts workers’ rights at the core of its business model.”
Jeld-Wen is the world’s largest manufacturer of windows and doors, operating in more than 19 countries. Its Malaysian operations were established in 1974, supplying door components for Corinthian Doors in Australia, before expanding to other international markets.
Last year members of the BWI MNC Network and the UtoU SBTF-PAC visited the site to get a first-hand look at the on-going efforts of the TEUPM’s efforts in organizing migrant workers in Malaysia. The TEUPM’s expanded organising project is supported by UtoU.
At the 3rd BWI World Congress that was held in Bangkok in December 2013, the BWI passed a Congress resolution calling on Jeld-Wen to honor core ILO labour standards throughout its global operations. This recent success in Malaysia is a tribute to the TEUPM’s tenacity in continuing its organizing campaign at Corinthian despite the management’s resistance.