Saturday, April 25, 2015

11 picketing workers charged for EXCESSIVE NOISE?

11 workers who picketed charged for 'excessive noise' - this is a laughable. So what, now workers have to picket in silence? - see earlier posts:- 
11 workers arrested and detained overnight for picketing?

MTUC shocked with the arrest and detention of 11 workers exercising right to picket

This is a serious human rights violation by the Malaysian police - picketing is right provided by law in Malaysia, i.e. section 40 of the Industrial Relations Act 1967 (see earlier post for the exact wordings of the section.

One of the stated purpose of the picket as contained in the law is for '(i) obtaining or communicating information - and this was what the said workers were doing...and, naturally to communicate, one needs to also attract the attention of the people... 

Thus, the arresting of the union picketers on 23/4/2015 from the picket line, detaining them overnight, and taking them today to court and charging them for making 'excessive noise' not absurd?

What is also interesting was that the police allegedly also did come on Tuesday(21/4/2015) to possibly disrupt or stop the picket, but fortunately the Malaysian Trade Union President was there to explain to the police that a picket was a worker's right. If so, then the coming back again on 23/4/2015 and arresting 11 for 'excessive noise'  is questionable...Worse still was the fact that it was reported that it was the police themselves? Does this mean the police arrested because the police thought there was 'excessive noise'?

This was an industrial dispute between employer and workers(union) - the police, in my opinion have no right to intervene and interfere with the exercise of this right using some other law. Was the arresting of the 11 and keeping them overnight also not excessive? Was this for the proper reasons or with some other wrong motive? These are the questions that we should be thinking about...What do you think?

And they have now been charged under section 13 Minor Offences Act - excessive noise, which I believe would be section 13(1) as laid out here...
Section 13
 (1) Any person who-
(a) beats within the limits of any town or village between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. or in any public road or public place at any hour, a drum or tom-tom, or blows a horn or trumpet, or beats or sounds any instrument or utensil in such a manner as to cause annoyance or inconvenience to occupants of any premises in the vicinity; or....shall be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred ringgit.

For a background as to what brought about this picket - see the Malaysiakini report of 23/4/2015 which is to be found below; Tobacco workers huff and puff over VSS offer.

BAT picketers face 'excessive noise' charge

Eleven British American Tobacco Bhd (BAT) staff were charged at the Petaling Jaya Magistrate's Court today, following their picket over the company's voluntary separation scheme offer.

They were charged under Section (13) of the Minor Offences Act 1955 for making excessive noise, which carries a maximum RM100 fine.

All eleven claimed trial and bail was set at RM700. Lawyers for the accused said it was "unusual" for bail amount to exceed the maximum fine.

The accused were among BAT staff who were picketing against the VSS offer since Monday.

Some protesters claim that local staff were being offered VSS to make way for cheaper foreign staff. BAT was asked to respond to this allegation, but did not do so in their reply.

Not residential area

They were arrested by the police yesterday and held overnight before they were charged this morning.

Lawyer Latheefa Koya revealed that the police took action on the group following a report lodged by the police themselves.

He said the attempt to charge the 11 was a breach of their right to picket under Section 40 of the Industrial Relations Act 1967.

"These people were just picketing outside their employer's office. There are no houses there. It is not a residential area.

"I don't know how there can be a complaint (for making excessive noise)," she said.

Latheefa added that the police should be condemned for violating the workers' rights.- Malaysiakini, 24/4/2015, BAT picketers face 'excessive noise' charge

Tobacco workers huff and puff over VSS offer

A group of disgruntled workers for British American Tobacco (BAT) Berhad have taken to the streets to picket their alleged dissatisfaction over a voluntary separation scheme (VSS) offered to about 50 workers by the company.

The 20-odd protesters carrying drums and placards were led by Petaling Jaya National Union of Tobacco Industry Workers (NUTIW) chairperson Ahmad Fikri Rajab and have been protesting the issue since Monday.

Their placards bore the words ‘Company not fair’, ‘Company disregards workers' rights’ and ‘Company prioritises foreign workers’.

The picket was held at the junction of the BAT premises in Section 13, Petaling Jaya and saw the workers asking passing motorists to honk in solidarity with their predicament.

Ahmad Fikri (left) said the workers were unhappy that BAT management made the VSS offer to workers who were mostly union members as a ploy to weaken their in-house union.

“The new job of ‘product specialist’ offered under the VSS is only open to personnel who then cannot join the union. If they do not accept this new job, they will have to leave the company,” explained Ahmad Fikri.

“They are doing this to weaken the union by reducing the number of unionised staff,” he told Malaysiakini Wednesday.

The VSS offer with the new job designation was said to have been offered to the 56 workers on March 24 and they were supposed to have given their decision by March 27.

When the offer was not accepted by majority of the workers, Ahmad Fikri alleged BAT management “locked up” the workers on March 30 and tried to “arm-twist them” into making an immediate decision.

'A terrible decision'

“The company took a drastic measure the following Monday where they locked up all the workers in a room from 8am to 12.30pm to force them to make a decision on whether to accept the offer of a production specialist or be retrenched,” claimed Ahmad Fikri, a quality control assistant with BAT.

He also claimed only 30 positions were offered despite there being 56 workers involved in the VSS exercise.

When interviewed, the workers said in their view, the purpose of the VSS was to reduce the number of local workers to allow the hiring of foreign workers at a cheaper rate.

They also claimed BAT did not adhere to “proper procedures” when it came to the VSS and no discussion was made with the union prior to the offer being presented.

Fadhil Ibrahim, a process technician with BAT for over 29 years, said it was unfair of the management to terminate them in such a manner.

“This is such a terrible decision. We feel like we have not been appreciated at all. They can’t just force us into a room and ask us to make a decision in three hours [...] that is unfair,” he said.

The senior worker urged his management to “open their eyes and follow proper procedures and laws” when it came to worker-related issues.

Fadhil also said BAT called in the police to halt them from protesting outside the company’s entrance on Tuesday. The situation was defused by Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) president Mohd Khalid Atan who was present.

“They sent the police to chase us the other day and Khalid had to get involved. He helped explain to the police that picketing was part of our rights and we were not causing any harm in any way,” he added.

BAT denies union-busting

When contacted, BAT Malaysia managing director Stefano Clini said the company “strongly disputes the allegations made by NUTIW” including the allegation of “union busting”.

“As with all human resources related matters, the recent restructuring and cigarette ration exercises has been embarked upon with strict adherence to relevant internal guidelines and policies, applicable labour laws and the relevant codes,” said Clini in an email today.

The recent restructuring exercise, he said, was made due to the “challenges impacting its manufacturing division which necessitates the release of some of our staff involved in this division of the company”.

11 individuals charged for making excessive noise

 | April 24, 2015 
The group was picketing at Jalan 19/1 Seapark due to several employees having allegedly been wrongfully dismissed.
PETALING JAYA: Eleven individuals were charged in the magistrate’s court here today for making “excessive” noise in a public area.

The 11 were charged under Section 13 of the Minor Offences Act 1955 that was read together with Section 34 of the Penal Code.

Section 13 relates to any person who produces noise that causes annoyance or inconvenience to occupants in any premises while Section 34 states that when a criminal act is committed by a few persons with a shared intention, each of such persons is liable for that, as if it was committed by him alone.

The 11 will be fined a maximum of RM100 if they are found guilty under the Minor Offences Act.

All of them pleaded not guilty when the charge sheet was read to them.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Saphira Selamat proposed bail of RM2,000 for each. However, Latheefa Koya, the defence counsel for the 11 individuals, argued that the amount was too high.

“Under Section 13, offenders would only be fined RM100 when they are found guilty.”

“On behalf of my client, I would like to ask for a bail that is not more than RM100, Latheefa said, adding that her clients earned an average of RM1,900 per month.

“Some of them were even sacked from their jobs,” Latheefa explained.

Magistrate Salamiah Salleh then set bail of RM700 in one surety for the 11.

They were alleged to be picketing at Jalan 19/1 Seapark here on 1.40pm yesterday.

Latheefa later said the arrest was a breach of their right.

“They were guaranteed their right to picket,” she said.

Malaysia Trade Union Congress (MTUC) Secretary-General Gopal Krishnan said the group picketed due to several employees facing alleged wrongful dismissal.

“They are using their rights to picket to get people’s attention for their problems,” he told FMT. - Free Malaysia Today, 24/4/2015, 11 individuals charged for making excessive noise

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