By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Penang on Sunday, 8.9.1985
DAP calls on Labour Minister to establish a Board of Inquiry to inquire in all proposed cases of mass retrenchment of workers
Mass retrenchment of workers has become a major labour problem in Malaysia which has not received the serious government attention it deserved.
According to none estimate, over 7,000 workers in the textile industry and over 10,000 workers in the electronics industry have already been retrenched. The closure of mines have also reduced the mining work force by some 40 per cent.
The retrenchment waves are only beginning, and in the coming months, more Malaysian workers would be thrown out of work. Massive retrenchments in the electronics industry are expected to increase resulting in tens of thousands of Malaysian workers losing their jobs. In Penang two textile factories would be retrenching workers, the Dragon and Phoenix Berhad to lay off 250 workers while Penfabric Sdn. Bhd to lay off 80 workers.
The DAP calls on the Minister of Labour, Datuk Mak Hon Kam, to convene an emergency meeting of his top Ministry officials, and to call in trade union and employer representatives to work out a national strategy to deal with the problem of mass retrenchment of workers.
He should not spend 100 per cent of his time in the MCA ‘Three Kingdom’ Power struggle to the detriment of the Malaysian workers and their interests. If Mak Hon Kant could not spare time for the problems of the workers until the MCA party elections on Nov. 24, then he should have the decency to ask for leave from the Prime Minister and to allow Minister to effectively exercise responsibility and leadership in the Labour Ministry.
As one of the steps which the Ministry of Labour should take to deal with the problem of massive retrenchments, the Labour Minister should invoke Clause 34 of the Industrial Re1ations Act 1967 to establish a Board of Inquiry to inquire into all cases of proposed mass retrenchments1 he Board of Inquiry should ensure that no employer uses the present economic slowdown as an excuse to retrench workers, consider how retrenchments could be avoided or minimised, and how the hardships of the retrenched workers reduced.
The Employment Act provides for retrenchment benefits to be paid to retrenched workers, but this provision is meant for normal economic situation where retrenchments are isolated incidents. At present, with the massive retrenchments taking place in the country, the Employment Act provision could not cope with the magnitude of the problem.