Francis Xavier organised Malaysia's electronic workers

posted 20 Sep 2010, 07:53 by Stefan Gigacz   [ updated 20 Sep 2010, 08:35 ]
Former Malaysian YCW leader, Francis Xavier, who later came to organise Malaysia's electronic sector workers, has died after being struck on his motorcycle by a car which skidded into him.

"Francis's unceasing commitment and passion for the protection of rights of workers are well-known to the many workers whose lives he struggled to make better," writes Josie Fernandez in a tribute at 

"Deeply humane and passionate about the cause of the working class, Francis gave his life and liberty for the happiness of workers who needed decent wages and better working conditions. 

"No worker was too small, no worker-related issue too insignificant for Francis. He did not turn away any worker who needed his help, says K Selvaraja, a close friend of Francis and a former trade unionist. 

"I knew Francis for almost two decades of his three decades as a labour activist. In the early 1990s, the Education and Research Association for Consumers (I was its president then) faced some organisational challenges and we required expertise to resolve them. 

"A friend whom I had approached for assistance said, “I will introduce you the best in organisational management.” I was introduced to Francis who was then the executive secretary of the National Union of Employees in Companies Manufacturing Rubber Products (NUECMRP).

"I found him as did others to be guided by the enduring principles of honesty, forthrightness, steely integrity and ethics. Francis was very charming, compassionate and humble. He had great energy and when we worked on projects, other team members found it difficult to keep to his long hours.

"Francis will most be remembered for his ability, struggles and passion for organising and reorganising workers to unionise in a climate that preferred a fragmented trade union movement. 

"On his motorbike, he would go through difficult terrain at dusk when workers came home after work. The rough rides through the rice fields of Kedah and Penang were a small inconvenience, says Selvaraja, as long as he was able to reach out to workers, to conscientise them on their role in building democratic unions. Francis was a strong believer in a multi-ethnic rank and file union leadership.

"His inter-personal skills were a great asset in organising workers and in negotiating collective agreements with industries. Collective agreements impact the lives of thousands of workers and their families. After months, days and many hours of negotiations, just before the clock strikes the last hour for the expiry of a collective agreement, the management would give in to a few more cents to the daily wages of workers. 

"One day, after a long and difficult collective agreement, he remarked that the few cents would make no difference to the company's profit lines and yet they went on negotiating until 3am. I saw his pain and disappointment but I knew he would not give up the struggle.

"When workers disputes faced a wall and management refused to relent, Francis took multiple approaches in resolving these disputes. As the Malaysian trade union movement is not militant, unions use mediations, negotiations, peaceful protests and campaigns to resolve disputes," Josie Fernandez concludes.


Tribute to a tireless unionist ( - paid content)


“Unionist Dies before Seeing Fruit of His Labour”- Francis Xavier (Committee of Asian Women/