BWI and Malaysian union fight wage cuts and harassment
BWI and the Sabah Timber Employees Union (STIEU) took action to defend the rights and improve the working conditions of Indonesian migrant workers at Fu Yee Corporation, a Sabah-based Timber mill.
In a joint statement, STIEU General-Secretary Engrit Liaw reported that union members are being subjected to arbitrary wage theft, union busting and harassment. It said that last April, when the government imposed a national movement control order to limit the spread of COVID-19, the company slashed wages by 50 percent with no prior consultation with workers. This has left the company’s workers, majority of whom are migrants, in a state of uncertainty. The families of the workers were also severely affected as their ability to send remittances was also compromised.
STIEU also reported that the company is engaged in union-busting schemes. It said that the Fu Yee management registered an in-house union in 2019 in an attempt to subvert workers’ plan to form their own union and divide their ranks. As a result, unnecessary factions among workers emerged and a climate of xenophobia and violence was created.
This hostile atmosphere eventually led to the harassment of STIEU members who are being pressured into joining the Fu Yee-controlled in-house union. The harassment came in the form of blacklisting STIEU members and threats of retrenchment and repatriation, especially to those whose work visas are close to expiration.
In response, STIEU has filed a claim report before the Labour Department and police, pursued legal action via the Industrial Court and filed a formal complaint to the Department of Trade Union Affairs.
“Given the constant intimidations and ongoing threats by Fu Yee Corporation towards STIEU members pursuing remedy, it is vital that we shed light on the injustices these migrant workers are facing. They should be able to have the freedom to make empowered choices, and to have basic employment rights upheld. Any human rights abuse must be exposed and the parties involved must be reprimanded, including employers who are unable to adhere to basic labour laws,” BWI Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino said.