Ketua Pembangkang calls on Labour Minister, Datuk lee San Choon, to intervene to solve the 10-day Len Omnibus strike and to restore bus services

Statement by Ketua Pembangkang and DAP Member of Parliament, Lim Kit Siang, at a Press Conference at DAP Kuala Lumpur Office, 63-D Jalan Sultan Kuala Lumpur, on Monday, 9th August 1976 at 12 p.m.

Ketua Pembangkang calls on Labour Minister, Datuk lee San Choon, to intervene to solve the 10-day Len Omnibus strike and to restore bus services

The strike by about 400 workers of Len Omnibus Company Bhd. Has entered into its 10th day. However, the Ministry of Labour does not seem to have taken a serious view of this dispute, to solve it and to restore bus services for tens of thousands of commuters from Kuala Lumpur to Tanjong Malim covering are Rawang, Batang Kali, Ulu Yam, Kuala Kubu Baru, Kerling, Rasa, Tanjung Karang, Batang Berjuntai, Kuala Selangor, and surrounding estate and tin mines.

At the opening of the delegates conference of the Transport Workers’ Union on August 1 ( the second day of the Len Omnibus strike ), Dato Lee San Choon warned that stern action would be taken against transport companies which were unreasonable to their workers. He said that this unreasonable attitude of some companies had caused their workers to go on strike.

On 24th July 1976, the Len Omnibus Company Bhd. served retrenchment notices on 35 bus workers, giving the following as reasons:

“1. That the Company has in the past and particularly of late suffered a serious decline in its business incurring severe losses by reason of the severe competition from mini-buses operating along the Company’s routes.

“2. By reason of this the Company is desirous of reorganising its operations and as such your services with the Company have become redundant.”

The reason given by the Omnibus Company is clearly unacceptable. Len Omnibus Company Bhd. is only one of eight bus companies operating in and from Kuala Lumpur, which are all affected by mini-bus operations, and the others have not been affected to the extent as to necessitate retrenchments.

Secondly, the Minister of Public Works and Utilities, Datuk Haji Abdul Ghani Gilong, told Parliament on 8th July during question time that he is not aware that the introduction of minibuses has caused losses to bus companies.

Thirdly, even if it is true that the mini-buses have caused business losses to Len Omnibus Company, then the answer is not to resort to retrenchments leading to the loss of employment of bus workers, but fro the Bus Company and the relevant Ministries concerned to find a solution which will relieve traffic congestion and mass transport problems, without at the same time causing unemployment to bus workers. In fact, if what Len Omnibus Company said is true, then the Government has been responsible for the retrenchment of the bus workers by an improper implementation of its mini-bus policy. The Government has all the more responsibility to intervene to solve the dispute, both to restore jobs to workers and to restore bus services to the people in the area.

Fourthly, assuming that the reason of retrenchment is the reason, the Len Omnibus Company Bhd. had acted irresponsibly, in retrenching workers without giving workers and their representatives, an opportunity to discuss this problem. This in fact violates the Code of Industrial Harmony subscribed to by the Government, the Employers and the Trade Unions, which provides that in circumstances where redundancy is likely to occur, the employer should in consultation with his employees representatives or trade union as appropriate, and in consultation with the Ministry of Labour take positive steps to avert or minimise reductions of work force by adoption of appropriate measures.”

Has the Len Omnibus Company Bhd. consulted the workers’ representatives or the ministry of Labour before the notice of retrenchment?

However, it is clear that the retrenchment reason is not a bona fide reason for the management notice to terminate the services of 35 workers.

It was merely the latest in a series of anti-union acts by a management which acted and behaved as if it were in the 18th century, where the workers are chattels and not important partners in any business enterprise.

This is clearly seen by the fact that the Len Omnibus Company defied the order of the Minister of Labour on 16th December 1975 that the company accord recognition to the Transport Workers’ Union, in accordance with Section 8 (5) of the Industrial Relation Act.

An employer representative, Senator Tan Sri Gan Teck Yeow , last week urged the government to take a “sterner view” of what he called irresponsible action by some unions who defied the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act and the Code of Conduct for Indus trial Harmony.

But here is an employer who has defied both the IRA and the Code of Conduct, and what has the Minister of Labour done about it?

Following the blatant refusal of the employer to comply with the Minister of Labour’s order of recognition, the relationship between workers and the management deteriorated, leading toot he dismissal of eight bus workers on 26th June, 1976.

This sparked off further disputes between the workers and the management. On 20th July, 1976, at a meeting called by the Ministry of Labour, the management representative informed the Ministry official and workers’ representatives that the Board of Directors of the Len Omnibus Company would meet on 26th July and the Board would take a decision on the dispute.

The outcome is the notice to retrench 35 workers, which clearly is a calculated management move to punish the workers for daring to join a union an a submit claims.

Such blatant contempt for workers’ rights, and disregard of Ministry of Labour order to accord recognition to the union, shows how powerful managements in Malaysia have become.

The Minister of Labour, Dato lee San Choon, should personally intervene in this matter, firstly, to take stern action against the Len Omnis Bus Bhd. to make them understand that workers’ rights must be respected, and secondly, to restore the bus services so that the workers and wage earners and school children will not be terribly inconvenienced.

The Minister of Labour should stop going all over the country addressing MCA and MCA Youth meetings, as he had been doing the last few days, but get down to the problem of the bus dispute to solve it and securing for workers basic rights.

It is public knowledge that the Chairman of the Board of directors is Dato Shoib Mohamed, Speaker of Selangor State Assembly and Selangor UMNO leader. The workers want to know whether the failure of the Minister of Labour to takes tern action against the Len Omnibus is because of presence of a UMNO leader and capitalist in the management? Dato Lee San Choon should assume his responsibility and get the buses on the roads again, and the jobs restored to the workers.