Electronics workers win major battle against employers

Chemi-Con (M) Sdn BhdKUALA LUMPUR: Electronics workers from two factories in Selangor scored a major victory following a court ruling that their employers accord recognition to their unions.

On Wednesday, Renesas Semiconductor KL Sdn Bhd and Chemi-Con (M) Sdn Bhd lost their appeal in the Court of Appeal to nullify an order by the Human Resources Minister.

This means, the company must recognise the unions right to represent members, including in collective bargaining.

Judge Mohd Zawawi Salleh, in dismissing the appeal, said the three-man bench had no reason to alter the findings of the High Court.

Unlike most trade unions which are national based, the electronics sector is divided into four regions as decided by the Cabinet in 2009.

In 2011, western region general secretary Bruno Pereira sought recognition from both companies through letters he signed but was turned down.

Following complaints to the Trade Union Department, the minister last year ordered both employers to give recognition to the unions to represent about 2,000 workers.

However, both companies located at the Telok Panglima Garang Free Trade Zone in Banting, filed a judicial review to challenge the minister’s order.

Lawyer Sivarasa Rasiah said the employers’ main complaint was that Bruno was not an employee in the electronics sector and as such the letters he sent in his capacity as general secretary was invalid.

At that time, Bruno was terminated by his then employer Stats ChipPAC (M) Sdn Bhd and the matter is still pending before the Industrial Court.

Bruno, however, was elected and employed as general secretary by the central region union.

“The High Court ruled that Bruno’s position was intact and he is deemed to be an employee unless the Industrial Court rules otherwise,” said Sivarasa, who was assisted by R Chandra Segaran.

The Malaysian government’s initial policy was to refuse permission to set up unions due to its promise to investors to have a union-free environment but later allowed in-house unions.

The right to organise workers was relaxed in 2009 but limited to regional based unions. However Bruno claimed most employers were still resistant to have a body to represent employees.