Malasia - Consistent denial of recognition for forestry union

Sabah Forest Industries (SFI) has consistently used judicial review proceedings to delay and effectively deny recognition to the Sabah Timber Industries Employees Union (STIEU). On 27 June 2016 the Sabah High Court dismissed a recent judicial review of a decision by the Malaysian Minister of Human Resources ordering the SFI to recognise the union, in March 2015.

This was the third time SFI had used judicial review proceedings to undermine union recognition and avoid collective bargaining. Despite the Sabah High Court’s dismissal of the judicial review, SFI filed yet another appeal to that decision on 22 July 2016. SFI, which is owned by the Indian multinational paper company BILT, also wilfully ignored a decision of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that found breaches of ILO Core Conventions 87 and 98. The Ombudsman for the investment arm of the World Bank, which has a total of USD 250 million invested in SFI’s parent company, was also investigating SFI and BILT’s anti-union behaviour.

It seemed clear that the constant applications for a judicial review were simply a tactic designed to delay union recognition for long enough to trigger a new election period, taking the union back to the beginning of the process again. Without some kind of intervention, STIEU fear they may be locked in this cycle indefinitely.

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