This is a hugely significant case that has not received enough attention and on which hinges the very definition of the employer-employee relationship.
A Japanese multinational firm based in Malaysia, Asahi Kosei, has slapped a lawsuit on human rights lawyer Charles Hector after he highlighted on his blog the problems faced by 31 Burmese workers at its factory in Malasyia.
The company is claiming that the workers are not theirs as they were supplied by an external contractor and that contractor is responsible for the workers’ wages and welfare.
Apart from the definition of employee/worker, the case puts into focus the issue of whether a human rights defender should be protected when sounding the alarm about alleged rights violations.
Tomorrow there will be a hearing in the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya at 9.00am on an application to stay proceedings in the High Court.
According to the In Defence of Charles Hector team:
It will be an open hearing. The actual quorum and court number hearing this application will normally be revealed later, usually on the hearing date – so need to check the notice boards on that day to know which court room the hearing will be.
If the Court of Appeal allows this stay application, then the trial at the Shah Alam High Court, now fixed for 24-26 August 2011 will be adjourned until after the Appeal that has been filed on the question of whether the 31 affected Burmese migrant workers be joined as parties, which is now fixed for hearing on 5 October 2011 is heard and disposed off. The Court of Appeal normally will make a decision on the same day of the hearing, i.e. on 23 August 2011.
If the stay applied for is not granted by the Court of Appeal, then the trial at the High Court in Shah Alam is expected to proceed beginning the following day, i.e. 24-26 August 2011.
Meanwhile, various groups around the world have already approached the Japanese embassies in their respective countries to express concern. See the In Defence of Charles Hector blog.