DRB HICOM MUST RESPECT THE CITIZENS’ RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS IN MALAYSIA
– Stop disciplinary action against workers for exercising their political rights.
We, the undersigned _____ civil society organizations, trade unions and concerned groups, are appalled by the actions of two DRB Hicom companies based in Pekan, namely Hicom Automotive Manufacturing Sdn Bhd and Isuzu Hicom Sdn Bhd for taking disciplinary action against 18 workers who merely exercised their rights (outside working hours), as citizens, to participate in the democratic process. Pursuant to a decision by the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC), which was also supported by the National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW), to extract commitments on workers' rights from contesting candidates and political parties involved in GE13, workers throughout Malaysia, including in Pekan, met or attempted to meet contesting candidates from all parties before election day.
Accordingly, on 3/5/2013, a group of 18 workers submitted the MTUC memorandum to one of the contesting candidates in the Pekan parliamentary constituency, which also happens to be the constituency that the Prime Minister of Malaysia was contesting.
On account of this act, disciplinary action has been initiated by 2 DRB HICOM companies based in Pekan against these 18 workers.
First, Hicom Automotive Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, which assembles automobiles for Suzuki, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, has issued show cause letters on 22/5/2013 to 16 workers, and speedily proceeded with the 'Domestic Inquiry' which began on 11/6/2013. At present the Domestic Inquiry is yet to end and there is no decision.
Second, Isuzu Hicom Sdn Bhd, that assembles automobiles for Isuzu, also issued show cause letters to 2 workers. They, too, are awaiting the decision of the Domestic Inquiry. Significantly, the workers were NOT allowed the right to be represented by lawyers or representatives of the National Union, only by representatives from the work site committee.
We consider the action taken by the two DRB Hicom companies not only a gross violation of worker rights. It is also a violation of the right of citizens to participate in the democratic process of Malaysia, especially during elections. No employer should have the right to dictate directly or indirectly the political choices, activities and/or actions of their workers, more so outside employment hours. Workers, as citizens, of Malaysia must have the freedom to join and participate in any political party of their choice, offer themselves as candidates if they so wish, and involve themselves in campaigning in general elections.
Hence DRB Hicom's taking disciplinary action against these 18 workers for exercising their rights as citizens in the run-up to GE13, is completely uncalled for. It is a gross violation of the rights of these 18 workers. Under the circumstances, we demand that DRB Hicom stop all disciplinary actions being taken against these 18 workers immediately. If any of these 18 workers have already been terminated, they should be reinstated immediately.
We understand that the charges levelled against the workers are (1) undermining the image or good name of the company orally, in writing or by action, and (2) bringing about or trying to bring about any form of influence or outside pressure to submit or support any external claim that is related to service be it an individual claim or claims of other employees.
We further understand that the employer DRB Hicom is trying to rationalise its action against the said 18 workers - in seeking a commitment on workers rights from the Pekan parliamentary candidate – by claiming that the workers might have given the 'false impression' that 'the company was involved in politics' which is contrary to the company's stance.
We find such an explanation laughable! Indeed, it is hypocritical given the fact that during the electoral campaign period, on 25/4/2013, the company had encouraged workers to go and meet the Barisan Nasional Paliamentary candidate for Pekan, Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, also the incumbent Prime Minister. Indeed, workers were allowed to go for the meeting during working hours! This event was also highlighted in Najib’s 13th General Election Pekan Constituency candidate website (http://www.parlimenpekan.com/
Companies and businesses should never terminate a worker for reasons other than matters that relate to work performance and/or their conduct as a worker save in very exceptional cases, for eg, like when a worker is convicted of a criminal offence.
These 18 workers have families and children, and a termination would cause great hardship to their well-being and livelihood. Amongst the 18 are also trade union leaders, including also the current chairperson of MTUC Pahang Division. We hope that the termination of worker leaders does not occur and that the two DRB HICOM companies are not resorting to ‘union busting’.
We call on DRB Hicom, Hicom Automotive Manufacturing Sdn Bhd and Isuzu Hicom Sdn Bhd to immediately discontinue disciplinary action against the said 18 workers, and if any be already terminated to immediately reinstate them without loss of benefits.
We call on Prime Minister Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, being also the Member of Parliament for Pekan, to intervene and ensure that the rights of his constituents, as workers and as citizens, are not violated by employers.
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