Malaysian union pushes for workers' reinstatement

The BWI-affiliated Sabah Timber Employees Union (STIEU) made significant progress in its fight to reinstate underpaid workers who were dismissed by Fu Yee Corporation, a manufacturer of hardwood venner and plywood. 

STIEU General Secretary Engrit Liaw said that the company responded positively to a letter sent this month by BWI calling for the workers’ reinstatement and release of the remaining 50 percent of their salaries which were illegally deducted from them.  

“Fu Yee has now started to process the workers’ work permits and medical examinations. We hope that the company stays true to its word and reinstate these workers back to their rightful positions in the factory,” Liaw said. 

The union said that Fu Yee workers have been victims of union-busting strategies, discrimination and other unscrupulous actions by the company’s management. Since March 2020, STIEU said that workers’ salaries were arbitrarily cut by 50 percent. The workers also face deportation as their work permits were prematurely terminated by the company. 

STIEU said that there have been efforts to negotiate with Fu Yee. Last January, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed where Fu Yee committed to reinstate the workers to their rightful positions in the company. However, the company failed to honor the  MoU and proceeded to prematurely terminate the work permits of its workers. 

“Without the valid documents, these workers are now vulnerable to deportation and would have to pay MYR 30 a day for overstaying,” Liaw said.

Fu Yee claimed that it would ask the Malaysian immigration department to waive the said fines. However, the company said that it will not provide financial assistance if the said fines are not lifted. Instead, Fu Yee offered to reinstate the workers provided that they accept the wage deductions. 

“This is a classic case of a big corporation exploiting workers for greed. For many years, Fu Yee has been continuing to offer illegal work to migrant workers, encouraging them to stay in the country while offering pay below the minimum wage requirements,” Liaw said. 

“It’s about time we draw a line on this issue. There have been far too many companies getting away with unethical and union-busting practices. The ones left to suffer are workers who end up with no salaries, surviving only on the goodwill of other union members and facing the future with uncertainty,” Liaw said.