Members of the Sabah Timber Industries Employees Union (STIEU) working at one of Malaysia’s largest timber companies, Sabah Forest Industries (SFI), have struggled for decades to have their union recognised. On 3 March last year the Malaysian Minister of Human Resources demanded SFI recognise the union, a decision that the Sabah High Court affirmed on 27th June 2016 by dismissing a recent judicial review of that decision.
Under Malaysian law SFI have 30 days to appeal the decision, and our information indicates that they are planning on doing this. This is the third time that SFI have lodged judicial review proceedings into government orders to recognise the union, and it is clear that this is simply a tactic designed to delay recognition for long enough to trigger a new election period, taking the union back to the beginning of the process again.
SFI, which is owned by the Indian multinational paper company BILT, has also willfully ignored a decision of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that found breaches of ILO Core Conventions 87 and 98. Accordingly FSC have just announced that SFI and their parent company BILT will be disassociated from FSC for refusing to withdraw legal action preventing union recognition. In addition, the Ombudsman for the investment arm of the World Bank, which has a total of $250 million invested in SFI’s parent company, is also currently investigating SFI and BILT’s their anti-union behaviour.
“The Malaysian Government, the Malaysian Judiciary, and FSC have now all effectively demanded SFI recognise STIEU”, said BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson. “This kind of behavior is light years away from responsible business conduct, and is putting the Malaysian timber industry to shame.
“However SFI and BILT still have time to do the right thing”, continued Yuson. “We are demanding that they start behaving in accordance with the ILO core conventions, not appeal the decision and #recogniseSTIEU immediately.”
BWI is demanding the SFI and BILT:
- refrain from appealing the judicial review decision
- implement last year’s order from the Ministry of Human Resources and accept the outcome of the secret ballot, to allow for recognition of STIEU as the employees’ official bargaining agent
- negotiate and conclude a collective agreement in good faith - introduce a robust occupational health and safety policy that includes worker participation and joint inspections to prevent fatal accidents
- to comply with the recommendations of the FSC decision to restore its credibility as a good corporate citizen
It's time to #recogniseSTIEU now!