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From underground activist to general secretary

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6 May, 2020Mohamad Hafiz Ismail, 32, is the general secretary of Electronics Industry Employees’ Union eastern region (EIEUER) in Malaysia and joined the Asia Pacific Youth Exchange Programme in 2019.

How did you become involved in trade unions?

"While working in an electronics factory in Kuantan, a lot of shop floor workers were unhappy with working conditions and how management handled workers’ issues.

"After several informal discussions on how to change the situation, we contacted a leader of National Union of Petroleum and Chemical Industry Workers. That person recommended us to contact Bruno Periera from Electronics Industry Employees’ Union western region (EIEUWR). This was a period of underground activism without alerting the company."

Learning to become a trade unionist – what did your education process look like?

"Bruno brought us the trainings held by one of IndustriALL’s founding organizations, International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions, in Kuala Lumpur. From there we got the basic idea of trade unionism; workers’ rights, collective action and work-life balance.

"That built up our momentum to organize and educate workers at our workplaces. My job as a clerk enables me to move around the factory and to talk to workers from every department. We registered the union and received recognition in 2010.

"In the past 10 years, EIEUER has expanded the coverage from one factory to three factories."

What is your role as general secretary of EIEUER?

"I was elected general secretary in 2017. My responsibilities include negotiations with employers and to fight for the best terms and conditions for workers in collective agreements. We still attend the collective bargaining agreement training provided by IndustriALL; learning is a continuous process.

"At the workplace, I am as union representative and handle a range of issues, like workplace disputes, disciplinary matters, and cases that referred to the industrial court."