by Ketua Pembangkang and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, on Tuesday, 6.9.77
Malaysia Fancy Plywood and Veneer Company close-down: Management’s offer of $30 loan for some 4 months of stoppage ridiculous
I am glad to see that following pressures from all directions, the Minister of Labour, Dato Lee San Choon, has at last acted. in the matter of the close-down of the Malaysia Fancy Plywood and Veneer Company where some 460 workers have been thrown out of jobs since July 1.
The Minister has met the management, and after the meeting yesterday, the management offered to give a loan of $40 to the workers during the entire period of shut-down. As the date of resumption of operations has now been put off again till November, this means a paltry and ridiculous sun of $30 loan to cover four or even five months.
From what I have been informed about the management and financial practices of the company, I am not prepared to accept the management’s statement that the company had been suffering heavy losses.
Is it not true that last year alone, the company did more than $7 million worth of sales? Is the company prepared to open its accounts for inspection and examination?
The management relies on Article 24 of the collective agreement signed between the company and the union, which states”
“During any stoppage or shut down occurred as a result of flood, fire, major machines breakdown including power failure, water supply and natural causes beyond the company’s control, the company shall not be liable to pay compensation to its employees.”
This article exempts the management from paying any compensation in the event of major machine breakdown owing to reasons “beyond the Company’s control.” Can the company prove that the boiler broke down “beyond the Company’s control.” This article therefore does not help the company.
However, Article 26 on retrenchment benefits payable to the workers is clear that the company should pay the workers their agreed retrenchment rates: namely, one months’ salary for each year of service for those with less than three years’ service; and two months’ salary for each year of service for those with more than three years’ service.
This affair has highlighted the helplessness of workers in the face of a hard employers. It also highlights the bias of the Ministry of Labour Industrial Relations Officer against the workers, for worker representatives had been scolded by one Industrial Relations Officer for claiming allowances or retrenchment payments with the stern statement: “The company is not a charitable department”. I want to know what the Minister of Labour, Lee San Choon, has done to take disciplinary action against this officer.
Finally, I call on the Company, especially the former Labour Minister, Bahaman Shamsuddin, who is deputy managing director of the company, to act as good employers with a responsibility for the welfare and livelihood of the 460 workers – especially the over 300 Malay workers in this Puasa month – by paying them their retrenchment benefits or pay them adequate allowance for every month of plant shutdown.