SUBANG, Aug 5 — Putrajaya’s involvement is needed to stop a timber firm in Sabah from continually using legal action to allegedly frustrate a decades-old attempt by employees to unionise, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said today.
MTUC secretary-general N. Gopal Kishnam said Sabah Forest Industries (SFI) has so effectively used the court system to block the formation of the union that it has been dubbed the “judicial review king”.
“The latest proceeding comes on July 22 when SFI filed an appeal against the Sabah High Court’s dismissal of its third judicial review.
“Therefore, without the government’s intervention, we fear that this cycle may go on indefinitely,” she told a news conference.
Following Malaysia's signing with the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, Gopal said it was an ideal time for the government to step in to resolve this matter.
"In the TPPA, Malaysia has negotiated a bilateral Labour Consistency Plan with the United States that requires a series of quite significant legal changes to Malaysian labour law.
"With changes already underway, the government should also be looking at practical impediments to enabling the right to collective bargaining," he said.
SFI, a multinational firm, had previously won twice to stop the Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union (STIEU) from forming the union.
The firm is owned by India's biggest paper manufacturer — Ballarpur Industries Ltd (BILT).
In 2003, according to STIEU secretary Engrit Liaw, the Sabah High Court was in favour of SFI because STIEU and MTUC had failed to produce a government official to back the move.
"Then in 2009, the Sabah High Court was again in favour of SFI because there were 'technical errors' from our side but we also lost the case when we appeal the decision in the Court of Appeal," she said.
The most recent judicial review by SFI in 2014, however, saw a turn whereby the High Court decided against the firm's application.
SFI has more than 2,000 employees, of which about 1,400 of them are eligible to join the union.
Liaw then took a swipe at SFI for wilfully challenging the move three times, a deed she described as "uncalled-for".