Strike by Tappers & Workers in Johore

Strike by 1,700 tappers and workers in Johore Labis Estate, Cha’ah

A major strike began in Cha’ah Johore,yesterday involving 1,700 tappers and workers of the Socfin-owned Johore Labis Estate and its oil palm and rubber processing factory.

It all began over a dispute over two months ago when a Socfin sub-contractor, Mr.Sim Kim Chong, unilaterally stopped the ten-year-old practice of providing transport for the tappers to and from their places of work.

There are a number of disquieting features about the dispute :

Firstly, why was a dispute over the unilateral cessation of free transport to tappers allowed to escalate into a major strike involving 1,700 workers and tappers?

What did the Ministry of Labour do to try and bring about an amicable settlement between the two parties? Had the sub-contractor, Mr.Sim Kim Chong, made out a case for unilaterally breaking the ten-year-old practice of providing free transport for tappers, involving loss of earnings for the tappers?

If Mr.Sim had not made out a case, why was Mr.Sim allowed to persist in his high-handed actions against the workers?

This is where the other disturbing feature arises. Mr.Sim, the person who triggered off the series of events leading to the strike, is none other than the Alliance State Assemblyman for Bekok, which covers Cha’ah.

Did Mr.Sim act or think that he has the full backing of his party colleagues behind his actions?

Did he act in the full knowledge that he would at least have the backing of the Member of Parliament for the same area (Segamat Selatan), who is none other than the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, Mr.Lee San Choon?

Whatever the circumstances, Mr.Sim had treated his employees most shabbily and outrageously. In fact, he had caused a dispute involving a strike by 1,700 workers and tappers, affecting about another 6,000 – 7,000 dependents.

If the strike is unresolved and drags on, the whole economy of Cha’ah will come to a halt.

This is surely the last thing one would expect an elected representative of the people to initiate!

The time now, however, is too serious to do a post-mortem on the motivations of the Johore Assemblyman for Bekok for precipitating the crisis in Cha’ah.

The most pressing task is to resolve the dispute,so that the 1,700 workers and tappers can go back to work, the Cha’ah new village resume its normal life, and 6,000 to 7,000 dependents looked after. With goodwill, sincerity and mutual respect from both sides, it is not difficult to seek a settlement which can protect and advance the interests, not only of the estate management, but also of the workers and the nation.

This is where a dynamic, aggressive and enlightened government should come in. We urge the Alliance government to immediately step into the dispute, before it gets worse. It should find a just settlement, even if it means dissociating itself from the actions of its Assemblyman.