Malasia - Timber company interferes to derail union ballot

The Timber Industry Employees Union of Sarawak (TIEUS) issued a statement on 23 August 2019 stating that the Shin Yang Group had instructed workers not to take part in a secret ballot on 25 August. The ballot was being held to decide whether the workers were in favour of forming a union.

The workers were employed by timber company Zedtee Plywood Sdn Bhd, a logging company based in Sarawak, part of the Shin Yang group that was already infamous for causing environmental devastation and for its disregard for human rights.

Zedtee conducted a string of meetings with workers who were eligible to vote in the secret ballot elections, instructing them not to vote, reported TIEUS president Agat Sagai. He explained that the majority of the company’s 1,000 workers were migrants, and as their immigration status was tied to their employment, they did not feel like they could afford to speak out or vote against the company. It was, he pointed out, a clear violation of the right to freedom of association.

The company began the meetings after seeing a Facebook post in which the union had held an out-of-work-hours activity educating Zedtee workers about their rights as workers and how to participate in the union election.

 A Zedtee Plywood worker, who declined to be named fearing management reprisal, said workers were “briefed” daily not to attend the secret ballot, let alone vote. He said the briefings were conducted by factory manager Chan Souh Teng; production manager Mr Hwan; and engineering manager Lau Sie Kuk. He said the names of those eligible to vote had been posted on their factory notice board and he had seen familiar names of workers who had already resigned from the factory on that list.

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