By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General, MP for Tanjung and assemblyman fro Kampong Kolam, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Monday, Sept.15, 1986:
Call on Transport Minister, Datuk Dr. Ling Liong Sik, to ensure that the ‘package deal’ to re-award traffic rights held by Mac Air would include assurance of re-employment of former Mac Air pilots and engineers.
Reports that MAS might be given the traffic rights to operate the lucrative Kuala Lumpur route, formerly held by Mac Air which had collapsed, has raised anxieties of former Mac air pilots and engineers as MAS has indicated that it would not employ the Mac Air pilots.
This would be most unjust. I call on the Minister of transport, Datuk Dr. Ling Liong Sik, to ensure that the former Mac Air pilots and engineers would be offered the first choice of operating the old Mac Air routes in any re-award of the former Mac Air traffic rights.
Calls for amendment to Companies Act to protect workers’ wages when a company goes into receivership
The Mac Air collapse and winding up has again highlighted the inadequacy of the laws to protect the wages and rights of the workers. The government is drafting legislation to amend the Companies Act to rescue ‘ailing’ companies, but has but has given no indication to plug the loopholes in the Companies Act which allow companies to avoid their responsibilities to their workers.
For instance, although Section 292 (1) of the Companies act 1965 gave priority to workers’ wages and salaries to all other unsecured debts in any winding-up of a company, this priority is limited to only $1,500 per employee.
As Justice Harun, then President of the Industrial Court said in an industrial court case in 1983, the limit of $1,500 for each employee imposed by the Companies Act “is not reflective of current wage levels”. 21 years after the original enactment of the law.
Mac Air owes the over 200 employees whose jobs had been lost some $3.5 million of wages, allowances and other remuneration, but on the basic of the Companies Act which gives priority of a maximum of $1,500 per employee, this works out to only some 4300,000, which means that some $3.2 million of the workers’ wages and allowances do not have priority over other unsecured debts – resulting in gross hardships to the pilots, engineers and other categories of workers in Mac air.
I hope both the Minister of trade and Industry, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and the Labour Minister, Datuk Lee Kim Sai, can see to it that this section in the Companies Act would be amended at the next available opportunity to give prority to all workers’ wages and remunerations without any limit over all other unsecured debts.
2.DAP suggests that the privatization o Telecoms be delayed by another three months till April 1, 1987 to allow all outstanding issues and claims of the 30,000 Telecom employees to be resolved first
I visited the Telecom workers who pickled outside the Ministry of Energy, Posts and Telecommunications at Wisma Damansara this morning, expressing support for their protest against unresolved issues and claims in connection with the privatization of the department.
Although the privatization of Telecoms had been postponed from the original date of August 1, 1986 to 1st January 1987, and the deadline for option papers for Telecom employees postponed from 24th July 1986 to 30th September 1986, I call on Datuk Leo Moggie, the Ministry concerned, to decide on another three-month postponement to the privatization date and deadline for option papers as so many outstanding issues of the Telecom employees had not been resolved.
The Minister should sit down for a serious and frank discussion with the Note leaders with regard to the many outstanding issues and grievances on the privatization plan, which includes:
• Telecom employees want to be eligible for pension in Syarikat Telecom Malaysia on opting for it, and not have to wait for five years before they are entitled to pension eligibility;
• Gratuity for those who opt for STM should be emplaced in a special fund, or in EPF, so that they could appreciate in value, instead of depreciating in value.
• Goodwill compensation for Telecom employees;
• Government housing, where employees had to move out after two years;
• Security of tenure, and not just for five years.
Datuk Leo Moggie should not adopt paternalistic attitude, of dictating to the 30,000 Telecom employees, or trying to intimate them with threats of retrenchment of civil servants.
Retrenchment of civil servants is a grave matter, and should be discussed in a proper manner and forum, and not raised in such a flippant fashion as part of a bargaining chip to force the Telecom employees to accept the STM terms to exercise their option by Sept.30.
I am calling for another three-month extension of the date for privatization and the deadline for option papers, for it is essential that the STM should start on a right footing, where there is co-operation and goodwill between the management and the workers.
During these three months, Datuk Leo Moggie should also convince the Malaysian public that it is the right and wise step under the present circumstances to privatize the Telecoms Department; and what measures have been taken to ensure that no corporate raiders, take-over artists or asset-strippers would have any opportunity to make use of the STM for their own purposes, as is very evident in many companies in the recent months.