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Railywaymen reject KTM takeover bid

 | August 29, 2012

Malaysia's largest train workers union has demanded that the government stop the privatisation of Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad, or else...

KUALA LUMPUR: The Railwaymen’s Union of Malaya (RUM) demanded that the government stop Malaysia’s largest train company Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) from being privatised.

The union feared that a takeover by MMC Corporation Bhd would not only put KTMB’s 5,500 workers at risk, but also affect the company’s services.

(More than 3,500 KTMB workers are members of RUM.)

As an example, RUM president Abdul Razak Md Hassan pointed at Merak Unggul Consortium’s takeover of KTMB in 1997; a period that lasted six years.

“We had a very bad experience during that time…Skilled workers were ordered to clean the toilets and clear rubbish,” he told reporters at RUM’s headquarters.

According to him, KTMB staff were further mistreated by the company, resulting in the government having to take the company back.

KTMB had remained with the government ever since, and sits under the purview of the Finance Ministry, of which Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak currently oversees.

Last week, MMC Corp proposed a takeover of KTMB to the federal government, a move that worried the union.

This followed a due diligence exercise that the company undertook to see if taking over KTMB was feasible.

Lately, MMC expressed interest in taking over KTMB, and confirmed that it would inject RM1 billion into it in the process.

Looking at MMC, Abdul Razak was worried that KTMB’s privatisation would end its workers’ benefits, including bonuses, allowances and quarters.

According to him, KTMB had been losing over RM150 million a year as a result of providing cheap services.

Allowing MMC to take over, he added, would mean that it would cut back on a lot of expenses in order to make profits.

Picket planned

He stressed that KTMB’s transport and cargo role should not be seen as a profitable one, but as a social service.

“In this world, trains are not profitable. They are a social service to the people…With cheap fares,” he said.

Abdul Razak said that the government controlled KTMB’s service prices, and asked if MMC would raise these prices if it took over.

He also asked the government to consider a three-year plan by KTMB’s new president Elias Kadir to turn the company around.

“If the government doesn’t allow the increase of fares… If MMC allows for it, will the government allow it? [If it does], why won’t it let KTMB do so now?

“It’s not fair for MMC to takeover,” he asked.

Abdul Razak then asked the government to give Elias Kadir a chance. The former had previously claimed that the latter helped to up KTM’s Komuter service from 17% to 86%.

Asked if he had met Najib over the matter, Abdul Razak said he met the premier in Parliament in April this year.

According to him, Najib had yet to make a decision on the matter.

With all this in mind, Abdul Razak said that the union would be organising a picket on Oct 12 from 5:30pm to 6:30pm in front of KTMB’s headquarters to protest the takeover.

He added that the union would take more “drastic” action if its calls went unheeded.


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