By Building and Wood Workers International
Workers at Sabah Forest Industries (SFI) in Sipitang, Sabah (Malaysia) have been picketing for eight days now, demanding action on unpaid wages, health and safety and union recognition. They have not yet received their wages from last month and their employer retirement contributions have gone unpaid since November 2016.
Building and Woodworkers International’s (BWI) affiliate, the Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union (STIEU) have waged a long-run campaign to demand SFI recognise the union so that collective bargaining can take place. On three occasions SFI have been ordered to do so by the Government, and each time they have used judicial loopholes to avoid recognition.
“It is inspiring to see the members of STIEU mobilising and conducting direct action for their rights,” said BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson. “The SFI and their parent company BILT cannot ignore the issues raised by the union any longer. They have a clear responsibility to work collectively with the union to resolve these long-running grievances. The time is now.”
Much of SFI’s operations has been closed down by the Department of Occupational Safety Health due to its extremely poor condition. In 2015 there were four major accidents on site, three which were fatal. Inadequate personal protective equipment provided to workers and subjecting workers who speak out to disciplinary procedures has made SFI an extremely dangerous environment.
“For months now we have been turning up to work, but there is little for us to do,” said STIEU General Secretary Engrit Liaw. “We are sick of being treated like we are tools to generate profits for SFI and BILT. Once we were told that they were unable to pay our wages this month, we knew we had to talk action to fight for our rights.”
This article was published by Building and Woodworkers International (www.bwint.org), on 16 March 2017.