MALAYSIA: Four newly formed electronics unions in Malaysia met with IMF representatives on July 21 to develop a strategy to assist in organizing and build strong unions in this largely unorganised sector.
The Malaysian government banned the formation of any national unions in the electronics sector nearly four decades ago. It was in 1974 when IMF affiliate, the Electrical Industry Workers' Union, attempted to organise an American electronics company called Monsanto Electronics and this attempt failed not due to the workers rejecting the union but due to the company's threat of shifting production to other locations and the government succumbing to such threats. Since this time a ban on formation of unions in the electronics sector was imposed on the workers and ran a course of almost four decades. The IMF together with the Malaysian affiliates mounted several campaigns against the Malaysian government since then but did not succeed in lifting this ban.
In mid 2009 the Malaysian government allowed the formation of regional unions in the electronics sector thus allowing more than 250,000 workers from this sector to be unionized. Arising from this four regional unions and one union to cater for the executive staff in electronics companies have been formed. Three of the four regional unions were registered and one is pending registration.
At the meeting IMF Assistant General Secretary Fernando Lopes stressed the importance of organizing the workers in this sector. Lopes said that workers in this sector need to be protected and it could only be done through the union. He also assured the participants of IMF assistance in organizing and union capacity building so that these unions could play an active and meaningful role in representing these workers who are often exploited.
Bruno Periera, General Secretary of the Electronics Industry Employees' Union (Western Region) highlighted the plight and suffering of the workers in this industrial sector and sort active IMF involvement to organize the workers. He also highlighted that many TNCs in this sector are rushing to form company controlled in-house unions so as to obstruct organizing by the four newly-formed regional unions. This view was also shared by all the other regional unions.
IMF Regional Representative Arunasalam said that this is a new opening and certainly the IMF will work with the regional unions in collaboration with the Malaysian IMF affiliates and the MTUC to ensure that the workers are organised. He also assured the unions of IMF support if companies resort to union busting.