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ILO rules HICOM Malaysia violates freedom of association

23 August, 2022The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) has concluded that the dismissal of five union leaders from Malaysia’s HICOM, supplier to Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi, was a violation of freedom of association.

In February 2016, HICOM dismissed 32 NUTEAIW members for attending a union briefing after working hours, outside of company premises. After mediation meetings at the industrial relations department, 27 union members were reinstated. However, the company refused to reinstate the remaining five local union leaders.

After exhausting all domestic court avenues, IndustriALL Global Union and the National Union of Transport Equipment & Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW) filed a complaint at the ILO in May 2021, stressing that the Malaysian government had failed to remedy HICOM’s anti-union behaviour.

According to the ILO CFA’s definitive report No. 399, the acts of the employer amount to intimidation. The international body reminds the government that workers have the right to hold peaceful meetings, and the employer should not interfere in the union activities. ILO recommends the government to facilitate mediation to explore solutions, including the reinstatement of the union leaders.

NUTEAIW welcomes the ILO decision.

“We are ready to attend a meeting with the government and HICOM to facilitate the reinstatement of the five unionists. The automotive brands should intervene in this dispute as they are committed to international labour standards. The ILO ruling has made it clear that the unionists were exercising their rights after working hours; HICOM has no right to control workers’ personal time and activities,”

says N. Gopal Kishnam, NUTEAIW general secretary.

“IndustriALL calls on HICOM to accept the ILO ruling and reinstate the five union leaders. A further escalation of the conflict risk bringing disrepute to HICOM and the brands internationally,”

says Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.