3 August, 2021Malaysia’s National Union of Transport Equipment & Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW) has filed a complaint with ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association on anti-union discrimination at HICOM, assembler of automotive brands Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi.
In February 2016, HICOM dismissed 32 NUTEAIW members for attending a union briefing after working hours, outside of company premises. The briefing was about a deadlock in the collective bargaining, and the company accused the workers of “tarnishing the image” of the company and “drawing unwanted public attention”.
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. NUTEAIW has exhausted all domestic legal avenues, all courts have failed to uphold the unionists’ right to participate in legitimate union activities.
“HICOM has no right to regulate workers’ personal activities after working hours. The Malaysian government and courts are failing to protect our members’ freedom of expression and assembly enshrined in the Constitution,”
says NUTEAIW general secretary N. Gopal Kishnam.
"The government has violated article 1(2)(b) of ILO Convention 98, stating that workers shall enjoy adequate protection against dismissal because of participating in union activities outside working hours.”
HICOM has a notorious record of union busting in Malaysia. In 2013, HICOM and its sister company Isuzu HICOM dismissed 18 NUTEAIW members for exercising their political rights.
The unionists were punished by the company for submitting – after working hours with their company uniform – a memorandum on workers’ rights to an opposition candidate during the general election. The workers won termination compensation in court, but failed to gain reinstatement.
Annie Adviento, IndustriALL South East Asia regional secretary, says:
“We stand in solidarity with NUTEAIW by taking up the case to ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association. IndustriALL calls on Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi to convene dialogue with HICOM to facilitate reinstatement of the 5 local union leaders.”