Thursday, September 10, 2020

Union Busting? Sabah union alleges harassment by local mill(FMT)

Employers cannot force any worker to not join trade unions, leave trade unions or join any trade unions. Relevant authorities must speedily investigate these allegations and end any wrongdoings.

Sabah union alleges harassment by local mill

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The Sabah Timber Employees Union claims workers are being 
discouraged from joining them and are being forced to be part 
of the in-house union under the mill’s control.

PETALING JAYA: The Sabah Timber Employees Union (STIEU) has alleged that a Sabah-based timber mill has subjected its workers to arbitrary “wage theft”, union busting and harassment.

In a statement today, the union said that it had filed reports with the Labour Department, police, pursued legal action via the Industrial Court and complained to the Department of Trade Union Affairs.

STIEU general secretary Engrit Liaw claimed that the timber mill had slashed workers’ wages by 50% in April without consulting them, leaving the workers – the majority of whom are migrants – in the lurch and threatening their ability to survive during the pandemic.

Liaw said this had also affected the workers’ ability to continue remitting money home, which in turn has risked the livelihoods of their families as many of them are the sole breadwinners.

She also claimed that the mill had registered an in-house union in early 2019 and prevented workers from registering their own union.

Engrit Liaw .

“This contravenes their rights to join, participate and organise trade unions as laid out in Section 9(c) of the Sabah Labour Ordinance.

“This hostile act has created factions between employees, with in-house union members going against members of STIEU and displaying xenophobic and violent behaviour.

“This has resulted in an oppressive work and living environment for employees,” Liaw said.

In another specific incident, one of the timber mill’s directors allegedly approached a work-site chairman and told him his strong leadership skills would make him an ideal candidate for the in-house union.

When the worker declined the offer, he was demoted to a security role, thereby exempting him from union coverage and protection.

Other STIEU members are said to have been harassed and pressured into joining the in-house union that is fully under the control of the mill, with workers describing how the company has blacklisted workers for wanting to join STIEU and threatened those whose work visas are close to expiry with repatriation.

Stating that workers have been the target of threats of retrenchment by members of the in-house union, Liaw said this had left migrant employees in an extremely vulnerable and helpless condition.

She said workers should have their basic employment rights upheld.

“Any human rights abuse must be exposed and the parties involved, including employers who are unable to adhere to basic labour laws, must be reprimanded.” - FMT, 9/9/2020

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