Thursday, November 18, 2010

UPDATE: JVC Unjustly Discriminates Against Burmese Migrant Women Workers Case

I have just received a reply from JVC Manufacturing Malaysia Sdn Bhd, whose contents has been copied and is pasted here. This letter is in response to the Media Statement entitled "JVC Unjustly Discriminates Against Burmese Migrant- Women Workers Who Claim Worker Rights" which has been endorsed by 90 groups. A copy of the said joint media statement was sent to JVC. 


JVC MANUFACTURING MALAYSIA SDN. BHD.(172773H)                  
Tel No.: 03-55416688(VIDEODIV)
(Formerly known as JVC Video Malaysia Sdn. SM.) .                                                 03-55413377 (AUDIODIV)
Lot No.1, Persiaran Jubli Perak, Jalan 22/1, Seksyen 22, 

40300 Shah Alam,                                                                                              Fax No.: 03-55422168 (VIDEO DIV)
Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.                                                                                  03-55416698 (AUDIO DI’))
Postal Address:P.O. ,Box 7111,40702 Shah Alam,

Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.


Messrs. Charles Hector & Pranom Somwong
Lot 3585A, Kampung Lubuk Layang
Batu 3, Jalan Metakab
28000 Temerloh
PAHANG, Malaysia

Dear Sirs,

The President of JVC Kenwood is in receipt of your letter dated 31st October 2010, concerning the standards of human and workers rights at JVC Manufacturing Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. (JMM).

JMM has investigated the contents of your letter and please be informed that we have already appraised the said important matters. We are committed to cooperate with all parties concerned to rectify any problems and ensure that improper occurrences are avoided in the future. In this regard, a joint resolution has been reached after discussions with the concerned Myanmar workers, their employment agency Fast Link Trans Sdn. Bhd., the Malaysian Trade Union Congress, the Electrical Industry Workers Union and JMM.

For verification on the above, please feel free to communicate with Mr Peter Kandaiah, Sr.Industrial Relations Officer, MTUC (mtuc.kaƤ or Mr. Maniyam Poovan, Gnereal
Secretary, Electrical Industry Workers Union (

We appreciate your concern about the human rights of workers, particularly’ in Malaysia. Please be assured that all of the companies in the JVC Kenwood Group, including JMM, are committed to honouring the employment rights of all of our workers, whether they are local or foreign, or whether they are hired directly or through dispatching agencies.

Mr Yoshihiro Tamaki
Managing Director
JVC Manufacturing Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.

We would be verifying the matters alleged by JVC in their letter, and will try our best to keep you all informed about the latest developments in this case.

Media Statement – 21/10/2010 (90)

JVC Unjustly Discriminates Against Burmese Migrant
Women Workers Who Claim Worker Rights

We, the undersigned 79 civil society organizations and groups, would like to express our serious concern that JVC has indicated that they will not re-new the employment contracts of Pa Pa Aye and 15 other Burmese women migrant workers, who lodged a claim at the Labour Department claiming worker rights that the JVC company had violated, amongst them the wrongful deduction of their wages to recover levy that employers have to pay when they employ foreign workers. The other 7 workers, who complained, whose contract was renewed in August, will also be terminated and repatriated. The information contained in this statement has been provided by the affected workers.

JVC has its factory at Lot. No.1, Persiaran Jubli Perak, Jalan 22/1, Section 22, Shah Alam, 40702 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, and they manufactures cameras, video cameras and audio equipment components, amongst others.

On 21/7/2010, Pa Pa Aye and 22 other women migrant workers lodged a complaint at the Subang Jaya Labour Office in Malaysia. Amongst their demands were for the return of monies wrongly deducted from their wages for levy the employer had to pay to the Malaysian government for employing migrant workers, other unlawful deductions like transfer fees, saving funds, etc amounting to about RM3,500-00, and for the return of the Passports which are still wrongly being held by  the employer . They were also claiming for the balance of the wages that they were entitled. According to the workers, the employer was to pay them much more about RM50 per day but they were only paid the sum of RM23.

On 6/8/2010, after night shift when the women workers were being transported back to their homes, their bus took a different route, and suddenly stopped where the agent was waiting. The agent then called one of the Burmese women migrant workers who had complaint to the Labour Department and asked her to leave the bus and follow him. The workers suspected that the agent was trying to get the worker sent back to Burma, and they stood together and prevented the agent from taking the worker. The workers then lodged a police report about this incident. There have also been other cases of harassment, whereby in one incident 3 men entered the women’s hostel and threatened them.

The workers, through their representatives, which included an officer from the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) also complained about this incident to JVC, and JVC gave the assurance that this will not happen again and they guaranteed that all workers could continue to work in JVC.

On 12/8/2010, the agent tried to force the workers to sign a new contract, but all workers refused to sign it. The pressure on the workers to sign the new contract took place at the factory compound. Later on the same day the JVC’s Human Resource Manager, one Mr. Mazlan, and the HR Assistant Manager, one Ms. Ida, also tried to pressure the workers to sign the new contracts. The new contract was written in English only (just like their old contract). The workers to date do not have a copy of their old contract, as they were never given a copy. The new contract allegedly stated that their daily salary will be reduced to RM21, which is RM2 less than what the workers have been getting until now.

On 25/8/2010, the Burmese workers informed us that JVC had summarily dismissed 30 Sri Lanka women migrant workers in retaliation for their demand that JVC pay them their promised monthly salary of RM750. After the dismissal JVC and the agent, Fast Link Trans, began forceful repatriation of the workers. On 28/8/2010, 8 Sri Lankan workers were allegedly sent home. These workers apparently never received the amount owing them and/or any compensation for premature termination of their contract.

On 8/9/2010, JVC’s Human Resources Officer, in the presence of the Labour Officer and the agent’s representative from a company known as Fast Link Trans, tried to return to the Burmese workers the amount they said was the levy that had been wrongfully deducted from the wages and asked the workers to sign a document which was in English. The workers refused as the amount offered was far less than the sum deducted, and  they did not want to sign any document which was in a language they did not know.
The company also refused to give a copy of the document to enable them to get an independent person who spoke Burmese to translate its contents to them.

On 28/9/2010, the agent informed the workers that when their current annual contract expires, their contracts will not be renewed and they will all be sent back to Burma. The contracts of 15 of these workers’ contract will expire in October, and the rest by the end of the year. Pa Pa Aye’s own contract expires in early November. The contracts of 7 others which expired in August have already been renewed. Later, on about 7/10/2010, the agent informed the workers that all 23 of them will be terminated and sent back to Burma. The process of forced repatriation of the Burmese workers has already begun with one worker being sent back to Burma on 9/10/2010.

It must be stated that according to the workers, when they came to Malaysia to work with JVC the agreement was that they will be employed for a period of at least 3 years, but when they arrived and started working, they were made to sign 1-year contracts with the verbal assurance that it will be renewed every year for at least a total of 3 years. The threat of early termination and deportation is also wrong and discriminatory as JVC has continued to renew contracts of others who had started work around the same time as these Burmese migrant workers.

Any early termination, and/or non renewal of the 1-year employment contracts by JVC can reasonably be seen as a retaliation of the company against workers who have elected to claim their rights as workers. Their case at the Labour Department is pending, and a termination and repatriation back to Burma will mean that the workers will not be able to continue to pursue their claim in the Labour Department/Court as the presence of the worker in the hearing of their claims against the employer is compulsory, and their absence will mean that their case will just be struck off,

We, the undersigned groups, call upon JVC to respect worker rights and their right to access to justice and not cause these 23 Burmese workers to be terminated and deported.

We  urge that JVC to respect the law and the legal process initiated by the lodging of the complaint by the workers at the Labour Department, and to respect and abide with the outcome of the hearing at the Labour Court. Workers should not be terminated and/or discriminated against by reason of the fact that they choose to demand for their rights or better rights as workers. For those who have already been repatriated back to their country of origin, including those workers from Sri Lanka, JVC must compensate them for their expenses in coming to Malaysia to work, and for the early termination of their employment.

We call on JVC to act justly and not to terminate these workers, and to renew their contract so that they can pursue their claims until completion. JVC should also adhere to their earlier promise that these workers will be employed for a period of at least 3 years, for migrant workers do expend a lot of money (850-1,000 USD) when they do come to Malaysia to work and any early termination and breach of rights will only leave these workers in a worse situation as they may not be even to settle the debts they incurred in coming here to Malaysia to work.

We call on Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) to inquire into this complaint concerning the violation of worker rights by JVC.

We also call on the Malaysian government and the Human Resource Minister to ensure that no workers are terminated and/or discriminated against by reason of the fact that they have stood up to claim their rights as workers.

The Malaysian government should also ensure that no migrant worker is terminated and/or repatriated back to their country of origins until the employer has fully settled all outstanding worker claims and/or payments. If migrant workers are terminated, the Malaysian government must ensure that these workers are allowed to stay and work legally in Malaysia until all outstanding claims and legal processes are settled. If special passes and visas are required to ensure workers ability to stay and work legally, it must be given gratis without requiring the workers to pay anything. Worker cases must be expedited, and independent translators should be available at all Labour Departments and courts.

Labour rights must take precedent over immigration law. Do not deport until worker claims are determined and settled by Labour Department and/or courts.

Charles Hector
Pranom Somwong

For and on behalf of the following 90 organizations

Asia  Pacific Forum on Women ,Law and Development ( APWLD)
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
Asian Migrants Center (AMC)
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
Bangladesh Burma Border
Building and Wood Workers International Asia Pacific Regional Office
Burma Campaign, Malaysia
Burmese Women's Union (BWU)
Coalition To Abolish Modern-Day Slavery In Asia
Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
Communication Workers Union P&T Branch Victoria
Community Development Services (CDS), Sri Lanka
Coordination of Action Research on AIDS & Mobility (CARAM-ASIA)
Cordillera Alliance Hong Kong 
Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), Burma
FICAP – Aichi
Filipino Migrants Center – FMC
Filipino Migrant Workers Union Chapter Rd Chapter 
Forum for Democracy in Burma
Grassroots Human Rights Education & Development (GHRE-FED), Thailand
HOME, Singapore
Human Rights Education Institute of Burma
IHI Action Group (Iwi Have Influence), New Zealand
IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh
Institute for National and Democracy Studies (INDIES)
Kachin Women's Association, Thailand
KAFIN – Nagoya
KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section
Lawyers for Human Rights & Legal Aid (LHRLA), Pakistan
League of Filipino Seniors (LFS)
Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia
MADPET - Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture
Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
MAP Foundation, Thailand
May 1st Coalition, Co-Coordinator, USA
Mekong Migration Network ( MMN)
Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) 
Migramte Australia
Migrante-Denmark chapter
MIGRANTE Europe (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
Migranteng Ilonggo sa Taiwan
Migrante International
Migrante international - Hsinchuang chapter
Migrante International - Taiwan chapter
Migrante Melbourne
Migrante-Middle East and Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter
Migrants  Trade Union (MTU), Korea
Migrant Workers Network – New Zealand
National League for Democracy [NLD (LA)], Malaysia
Nepal Institute of Development Studies( NIDS) ,NEPAL
Network for Empowerment of Women in Vietnam
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
Penggerak Belia Zon 23 MPSJ, Malaysia
Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
Persatuan Penduduk Taman Muhibbah, Malaysia
Persatuan Prihatin Komuniti KL & Selangor
Philippine Society in Japan – Nagoya
PINAY (Montreal)
Pusat Komas, Malaysia
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Malaysia
Rights Jessore, India
Shan Refugee Organization (Malaysia)
Shan Women Action Network (SWAN), Thailand
St. John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre, Hong Kong
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Tenaganita, Malaysia
The Communications Union (CEPU), Victoria Branch
The Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), Philippines
The Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB)
The Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec
The National Human Rights Society (Persatuan Kebangsaan Hak Asasi  Manusia, HAKAM), Malaysia
The Shwe Gas Movement
Unite Union New Zealand
Women Empowerment Association
Women Petition Committee
Workers Hub for Change (WH4C)
Yaung  Chi Oo Workers Association  ( YCOWA)
Yayasan Annisa Swasti (YASANTI), Indonesia

Monday, November 15, 2010

Global Network Urges Electronics Supply Chain to Respect Workers’ Rights

Published on November 13, 2010

While owners of big name brands ranging from Apple to Nokia to HP and JVC Kenwood roost in their headquarters in the US or Europe and try to outdo each other in bragging about their latest research and development, their supply chain around the world is comprised of different outsourcing companies vying for the contract to manufacture their required parts at the lowest production costs possible.

MANILA – Some of the most requested gifts these coming holidays are electronic gadgets. This early, shops are already bedecked in tinsel and promos to lure buyers of the latest televisions, digicams, cellphones, music players, computers from desktop to laptop to netbook to its latest evolutions such as the likes of Ipads, e-book readers and tablet PCS.

In ads of big brand names such as Nokia, Apple, HP, Dell, Sony and Sony Ericsson, JVC, Samsung, among others, these electronic gadgets are credited for “connecting people” if not shrinking the distance between people. But while these gadgets are being marketed for doing that – connecting people – the process of producing them involves a fragmented global supply chain, where big brand names outsource their supplies and parts from different manufacturing plants located all over the world.

Big manufacturers, which are mostly located in export processing zones, strive to produce according to strict specifications but in the cheapest possible cost of production, so they could reap profits despite having lowered their contract price to bag the outsourcing contract.

The result, said an international network of labor and human rights advocates, is “sweatshop conditions under harsh management, without the protection of trade unions.” The international network calls itself as Good Electronics. When asked, Pauleen Overeem, one of its leaders, said there is really no such thing as “good electronics,” if by good you mean electronics that are manufactured in conditions that respect human and labor rights and the environment.

A global network of organizations “calling for human rights and sustainability in the electronics sector,” Good Electronics was formed in 2005. It now counts 150 organizations and individuals around the globe as members. Its members include trade unions, labor rights organizations, human rights organizations, environmental organizations, academics and researchers. They held a three-day general membership meeting in Cavite, a province south of Manila, last week, with the help of the Workers Assistance Center (WAC) of the Philippines.

Blood, Sweat and Tears in Electronic Gadgets

Electronic workers around the world are denied their basic labor rights, the Good Electronics network said in a statement released to the press after its general meeting.

“Jobs in the electronics sector are insecure, and contract labor and temporary employment are rife in manufacturing companies,” whether they are located in the Philippines or in other electronics producing countries such as China, Taiwan, Malaysia or Mexico.

While owners of big name brands ranging from Apple to Nokia to HP and JVC Kenwood roost in their headquarters in the US or Europe and try to outdo each other in bragging about their latest research and development, their supply chain around the world is comprised of different outsourcing companies vying for the contract to manufacture their required parts at the lowest production costs possible.

In China the labor conditions are such that in Foxconn 17 young workers committed suicide, 13 of whom succeeded, from January to August this year. Foxconn is a big supplier of electronic parts for popular brand names. Foxconn is a subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision Industries, which is ranked 112th in the Global 500 Companies and said to be the world’s leading electronics manufacturer. It has manufacturing plants in China, India and Taiwan.

Foxconn’s name does not appear in finished electronic gadgets, but like other supplier companies, it is crucial in the production of big brand names such as IPhones and IPads, Nokia, HP, Dell, Sony Ericsson and Motorola. In China, Foxconn has a 900,000 workforce, and the company reportedly plans to further increase its workforce to 1.3-million by next year, said a study of SACOM (Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior).

SACOM is one of the Good Electronics members who attended the network’s general meeting in the Philippines last week.

Union Rights a Global Myth?

In compiling the reports of their members from different countries, Pauleen Overeem of Good Electronics said that generally, there are “grave human rights violations in the electronics industry.” This covers the consistent reports of its members about “long working hours, no freedom of association, no collective bargaining agreement, no protection against toxic substances,” etc.

“Shamefully, leading brand name companies and their suppliers fail to comply with internationally recognized standards,” the network said. Overeem said their group is seeking to connect the well-known brand names to less-known suppliers in the globalized supply chain, as they forged “plans to confront the generally deplorable labor conditions in the industry.”

Despite the entrenched international outsourcing of production, Good Electronics is trying to seek the accountability of well-known brand owners to the appalling labor conditions in their lesser-known suppliers.

In the Nokia Special Economic Zone in Chennai, India, at least two different companies are reportedly intimidating workers, suspending them from the job, arresting them for criminal charges, or dismissing them from their jobs in response to workers’ demand for union recognition and improved working conditions.

In Taiwan, touch panel maker YFO supplying Samsung and HTC is doing union busting. Lennon Wong, of Young Fast Optoelectronic Trade Union, said they began forming a union in 2009. As soon as they did, the company sacked five union officers and 14 members. In the face of protests YFO reinstated one of the officers it dismissed, but according to Wong, she was assigned to work in an isolated place without a single co-worker, and there were several video cameras monitoring her all day. “YFO continues to persuade the remaining union officers to take some money and leave for good. Apparently, being a big supplier of Samsung, LG, HTC, Nokia, Acer and Asus, YFO does not want a union to exist in its plant at all,” Wong told Bulatlat.

He added that the forced overtime in YFO is so “terrible” that it could add up to a hundred hours in a week. He said child workers are also being forced to work, often even longer hours than the adult workers. Despite their long and toxic working conditions, all of the workers receive pay that are “lower than regulated by law,” said Wong.

In JVC Malaysia, member of the JVC-Kenwood Group producing cameras, video and audio equipment, migrant workers who complained against “wrongful deductions” from their wages are being threatened with forced repatriation, according to Charles Hector of Network of Action for Migrants.

In India, managers in Foxconn have “vehemently opposed unionism,” said Jenny Holdcroft of the International Metal Workers Federation.

In China, Debby Chan of SACOM said there is practically no freedom of association as the unions they have are “mostly appointed by the management and do not really represent the workers.”

In the Philippines, there are additional obstacles to union organizing aside from those being thrown at their fellow workers’ way in other countries. The issue of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of labor advocates and leaders is “very exceptional,” noted Pauleen Overeem, a Dutch human rights defender from the Good Electronics.

While intimidation, repression, termination, violence and being hauled off to jail also happen to workers forming unions in other countries, Overeem observed that “it doesn’t get as bad as here in the Philippines.”

Generally, the electronics industry is a no-union, no-strike industry in the Philippines, said Cecil Tuico of WAC. With the exception of NXP (formerly Philips) in Laguna Science Industrial Park, Tuico explained that there is an “unwritten policy” against unionizing in the Philippines’ economic zones. Workers of NXP had formed their union in the 80s when its plant was still in Manila.

The Good Electronics meeting reported that it has successfully forged “plans to work on the industry workers’ right to associate (or form union), to work on their wages which are either below minimum in conditions where the minimum wages are already adjudged as below the actual amount needed to live decently.” Vowing to continue information-sharing and research, members of the network said they would also try to talk with governments and “put pressure” on electronics companies, “to make them look at the industry from the perspective of its workers.” (

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Statement of Coalition of Burma Ethnics, Malaysia (COBEM) on junta-run election

Statement of Coalition of Burma Ethnics, Malaysia (COBEM)
on junta-run election

We, the Coalition of Burma Ethnics, Malaysia (COBEM), founded in 2007 to respond to the needs of the ethnic refugees from Burma living in Malaysia, are community-based organization representing the different ethnic minorities from Burma. It was formed to organize, assist, empower and protect our respective communities. In recognition that community-based operations in Malaysia would benefit from increased resource sharing and cooperation.
This statement is prepared by executive committee of the COBEM with resources provided by many politicians, ethnic leaders in Malaysia and NGOs. With the cause that Burma refugees are unable to return to their homelands due to political unfairness, religious persecution, racial discrimination, we, COBEM, are motivated to declare this statement from refugee’s point of view as below:
  1. The coming election run by the military junta is based on the constitution drawn in 2008 which in fact is not a federal constitution but a mere union constitution which will never allow the ethnic minorities for self-determination. 
  2. The election law itself is not fair for parties as equal opportunities and rights are dishonored especially for ethnic minorities. With the excuse of security, many polls are barred where the military-based parties are uncertain to win the election.
  3. Human right is greatly violated that all citizens are not allowed to vote.
  4. Time limitation, financial deposition and unfair criteria hinder the community-based parties from a wide array of participation.
Thus, we, coalition of Burma Ethnics, Malaysia (COBEM), are totally against this military well-planned and systematically arranged election. We foresee the increasing civil war between the ruling military junta and ethnic armed-groups after the election. We further have a great concern on the possible increase of Burma refugee population in neighboring countries like in Malaysia.

Executive Committee
Coalition of Burma Ethnics, Malaysia (COBEM)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
6th November, 2010

Sai Kyaw

# Note that the publishing of statements of other groups in this Blog should in no way to be interpreted that NAMM (and/or its affiliates) agree and/or take a similar position unless specifically stated. The publication of these statements of others in the NAMM Blog is because we believe and support the freedom of expression and opinion.