by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, on Tuesday, 31st July 1979:
Call on Attorney-General and Labour Minister to explain why nothing has been done to enforce a $65,000 Industrial Court Award for 162 pineapple factory workers for over Five Years?
Over five years ago, on 18th June 1974, the Industrial Court handed down an award involving claims by 230 workers of the Malayan Pineapple Company Sendirian Bhd. in Klang for retrenchment benefits on their termination of services by the company. on 16th November 1973.
In its award, the Industrial Court held that only 162 workers who had served the company for three years and over were entitled to retrenchment benefits, and awarded retrenchment benefit at the rate of seven days’ pay for each year of service for these 162 workers, The total cost of the award came to about $65,000, ranging from $64 to the highest individual figure of $1,801 for the workers.
However, over five long years have passed since the Industrial Court Award, and the 162 workers have not been paid a single cent. All efforts by the workers, and their union, the Food Industry Employees’ Union, to enforce the award has been fruitless. Approaches have also been made both to the Ministry of Labour and the Attorney-General’ s Department, but no action has been taken to date to enforce the Industrial Court award to pay to the workers what is rightfully theirs.
I call on the Attorney-General and the Labour Minister to explain why nothing has been done to enforce the Industrial Court award in this case, and pay to the workers their rightful retrenchment benefits.
The Employer in this case is open flouting the laws of the land with impunity. The Government took tough and harsh actions against the MAS workers on the ground of breaking the laws of the land, but appears to be very tender and forgetful when employers flout the laws of the land as in this case.
It is scandalous, to say the least, that employers could be allowed to get away from their legal obligations for so long. Employers appear to be prepared to pay huge sums of money to conduct long litigations to upset industrial court awards, rather than to use this very sum of money to meet the workers’ claims.
Section 60(1) of the Industrial Relations Act provide for penalties for any person who contravened the Act, as had been done by the Malayan Pineapple Company Sdn. Bhn. in this case, of being liable to imprisonment for a year or a $1,000 fine or both. To a company which wants to evade a $65,000 award, a fine of $1,000 is no deterrent. This again shows up the weakness of the labour laws to protect the legitimate rights of workers.
I call on the Attorney- General and the labour Minister to give this matter serious attention and to enforce that employers are not allowed to flout the law with impunity. I will also call on the Malayan Pineapple Company Sendirian Bhn. and its principal company to honour the industrial court award, with interest, or they will be compelling the workers to resort to all possible forms of actions to get their due.