The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) welcomes the decision by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) International Board in siding with workers at Sabah Forest Industries (SFI), a subsidiary of BILT Graphic Paper Products Limited in the long fight for recognition of their union, the Sabah Timber Industries Employees Union (STIEU).
Gopal Kishnam, MTUC-Secretary General said that SFI/BILT’s behavior throughout this dispute had been reprehensible. “Here is a company with no respect for its workers. For over two decades has actively sought to avoid its legal obligations by every trick it can muster. The union had already won a secret ballot in 2011, that had prompted the Minister of Human Resources to intervene and grant recognition.
SFI/BILT challenged this by filing judicial review proceedings. These can only be considered the actions of a recalcitrant abuser of workers rights, that must be brought into line.”
“This decision vindicates those workers who held steadfastly on to their rights throughout. The FSC label operates as a market access tool for certified companies, however where it is clear that the companies cannot comply with the terms required – such as respect for workers’ rights in the case of SFI/BILT – then they ought to be deprived of the label and the benefits it brings.”
The case was brought by the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI, the global union federation for construction and wood sector workers) regarding violation of ILO Conventions 87 (Freedom of Association) and 98 (Union Recognition and Collective Bargaining), from July 2009 to the present.
SFI/BILT must now satisfy a number of conditions and submit documentation detailing how they will meet the conditions by late June 2016 or FSC will disassociate BILT. Full implementation is required by early October, otherwise BILT again risks disassociation.
Engrit Liaw, General Secretary of STIEU, said that while the sanctions imposed on SFI/BILT were of a far smaller magnitude than the suppression experienced by union members, including arbitrary dismissals, wage cuts and ignoring serious health and safety issues, SFI/BILT now have the chance to make things right.
“The power now sits with the company to stand on the side of the workers for change, comply with the conditions laid down by FSC, and start restoring the broken relationship they have with their workers. This can begin today by voluntarily recognising STIEU as the genuine representative of the workers, and immediately dropping their Judicial Review case against the union. Failing to do this will hurt their bottom line.”