SFI Must Do The Right Thing: Drop the Proceedings and Recognise The Union

Now that the Sabah High Court has adjourned its decision regarding the SFI/BILT judicial review case until 27th June, SFI/BILT should withdraw the proceedings preventing the recognition of the Sabah Timber Industries Employees Union (STIEU) to maintain their forest certification, according to the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI). 

Last month the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) released its ruling against SFI/BILT, finding that the failure to recognize STIEU violated the principles of the International Labour Organization’s Core Conventions 87 (Freedom of Association), and 98 (Collective Bargaining), thereby breaching of the FSC Policy for Association. 

To maintain its FSC association, SFI/BILT must commit to certain conditions within six months (i.e. by 18 November), including the demand that SFI/BILT “withdraw any legal action that may be delaying the process of union recognition.” 

STIEU General Secretary Engrit Liaw said that this is a final chance for SFI/BILT to do the right thing. “The FSC decision is clear regarding the withdrawal of all legal action standing in the way of STIEU’s recognition.” 

By 24 June SFI/BILT are required to submit an action plan and progress report indicating how they intend to comply with the FSC decision. Failure to submit this report could result in disassociation. 

“This is looking like a final chance for chance for SFI/BILT”, said Liaw. “Either they drop the case before that date, or they risk losing the clear economic benefits that flow from FSC membership. The Minister for Human Resources, the Forest Stewardship Council and SFI/BILT’s own workers are all demanding recognition of STIEU, it’s about time they started listening for a change.” 

The Sabah High Court’s decision to delay the ruling on the third Judicial Review was prompted by a request from the SFI/BILT lawyers for more time to review the submissions of the Ministry of Human Resources. This is the third time SFI/BILT have used judicial review proceedings to frustrate the process of union recognition.