By Allison Richina, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum
Lawyer, Activist, Human Rights Defender, and Blogger, Charles Hector, is currently facing a three-million defamation lawsuit carried out by Asahi Kosei, a factory in Malaysia. There has been information shared by the Good Electronics Network, and Clean Clothes Campaign, on the legal action for libel and demand for damages commenced by the Japanese electronics company Asahi Kosei against Malaysian labour activist Charles Hector, for publishing information about alleged labor rights violation committees company on his blog and via twitter. The International Labor Rights Forum shares Mr. Hector’s concerns about the way in which it appears that Asahi Kosei has failed to take responsibility for the thirty-one Burmese migrant workers in its Malaysian production site.
The company’s main argument is that the thirty-one workers are not considered apart of their working staff, rather workers supplied by an ‘outsourcing agent’. The company says that these workers are not on their direct payroll, hence they are not responsible for these workers, nor are they responsible for anything that happens to them. The company claims no knowledge of any termination or attempted deportation, or any new agreement that may have been made. Charles Hector’s argument is that once the workers are supplied to the company, then automatically an employment relationship arises between the workers and the company. He has continued to write about worker and migrant rights (throughout his blog http://charleshector.blogspot.com/) in order to find justice for the many misrepresented people in the workplace.
The punitive lawsuit against Mr. Charles Hector only accentuates the harsh reality of Burmese migrant workers in Malaysia, who do not speak the local language, face exploiting and indifferent employers and agents, unhelpful embassies, limited access to justice and collective bargaining and insufficient monitoring and protection from the authorities. Mr. Charles Hector advocates through a credible channel on complaints of rights abuses to the public and expresses the growing concern of conditions for millions of workers.
It is a matter of public interest to ensure the grievances of any persons whose human rights have been violated, and that they must be heard. Without it, there is no access to justice. If any person or organization that brings legitimate grievances of migrant workers to the attention of the public risks punitive sanctions, the already precarious state of the migrant workers will most certainly deteriorate even further. Help highlight the injustice brought upon Charles Hector and sign the petition now!
The ILRF has composed an urgent action letter in order to restore respect for basic human rights at Asahi Kosei. These letters were sent to the Asahi Kosei Company as well as all of the known buyers urging them to drop this baseless lawsuit. We have received a response from Toshiba Corporation stating, “Please be assured that we do not intend to procure materials or products from Asahi Kosei, or any company engaged in business activities against corporate social responsibility. Finally, we would like to emphasize that as a signatory to the UN Global Compact and based on our Procurement Policy, Toshiba supports full respect for fundamental human rights, including worker rights,” Ikuya Akamatsu, Group Manager.
However this is not enough for the Burmese workers at Asahi Kosei. The ILRF continues to fight for the millions of workers around the world that are silenced under inhumane working conditions. Workers toil from extremely long hours for wages that hardly support their families, to unsanitary and unsafe conditions. The ILRF fights to bring justice to the many countries that have little or no labor law enforcement. Freedom at Work (a campaign within ILRF) continues to uplift those labor activists, like Charles Hector, who become targets of repression for their organizing efforts. ILRF, in collaboration with unions and activist groups, campaigns to fight violence against trade union leaders globally and to protect the right of workers to organize and collectively bargain.
The ILRF insists on the following actions to be taken in order to bring justice to activists like Charles Hector and the silenced workers at Asahi Kosei. In order to restore respect for basic human rights at Asahi Kosei, we therefore urgently request you take the following actions:
- Demand that Asahi Kosei immediately withdraw the lawsuit against Mr. Charles Hector, the threats of lawsuit against other groups, who have brought the legitimate concerns regarding violations to the attention of Asahi Kosei and the public.
- Engage in a serious dialogue with workers, their representative and the media and human rights defenders to ensure adequate identification and remediation of any violations of labor rights and basic human rights that have occurred at Asahi Kosei.
- Demand that Asahi Kosei ensure the immediate reinstatement, with full rights and benefits of the Burmese workers, especially those currently in hiding and not yet allowed to go back to work in Asahi Kosei’s factory.
- Request that in order to avoid future concerns of labor and human rights violations, Asahi Kosei cease using these labor supply agents, and instead employ the thirty one Burmese workers directly under Asahi Kosei.
According to Good Electronics, Asahi Kosei has refused to engage in any type of dialogue with any labor group. The ILRF, Good Electronics, CCC, among several other labor organizations will not stop the efforts to improve the treatment of the Burmese workers and the attack on human rights activist, Charles Hector. We will continue to support those labor activist that remain the victims of criminalization through defamation charges, false arrests, arrests of striking or protesting workers or illegal detentions.