The police block against a group of retrenched workers was a very clear and blatant attack on civil liberties of Malaysian citizens, claims MTUC.
KUCHING: Some 1,000 retrenched workers of Sanmina-SCI Corporation were stopped in their bid to seek assistance from legislators by police at the entrance of the State Legislative Assembly building yesterday afternoon.
The assembly is in its final sitting for the year.
Assisted by Federal Reserve Unit, a road block was mounted by the police about one kilometre from the assembly building.
While the workers were kept at bay, there was a heated exchange between Andrew Lo, secretary of Sarawak Branch of Malaysian Trade Union Congress, the police and security personnel.
Lo told reporters that the behaviour and attitude of the police were “worse than the action of Sanmina which retrenched its workers”.
“I must express my strongest disappointment with the police for not allowing these employees to come to the Dewan to present a personal appeal to all assemblymen.
“The police blocked the entrance about one km from the building to prevent workers who have lost their jobs and who have families to feed from speaking to their elected representatives.
“This is a very clear and blatant attack on civil liberties of Malaysian citizens. It is also a brutal and very insulting conduct of the police.
“To me this is worse than the conduct of the American company which retrenched them.
“Still you have people who were retrenched who want to talk to their elected representatives but were prevented to do so by the police whose job is actually to protect the rights and livelihood of Malaysians especially when Malaysian citizens lost their jobs.
“This is unacceptable. I will take it up with prime minister himself,” he said.
Lo said police did not explain why the workers were stopped and on whose instruction.
“Someone claimed to be in-charge of the security and seemed to impose his personal opinion and went beyond his role that is to protect Malaysians.
“Perhaps if they exercised the same zeal in doing this, we won’t have much crime in this country. We hope they don’t hire ‘bomoh’ (witch doctors) to prevent retrenched employees from speaking to their elected representatives,” he lamented refering to a statement last week by the Sibu Police chief who reportedly wanted to use bomoh to help them solve murders.
Lo said that they submitted two requests to the Dewan. One was to see the Industrial Development Minister Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, and the second was to allow the retrenched workers to see their elected representatives.
While the authorities allowed representatives of the retrenched workers to see the minister, the authorities refused to allow the workers to meet with the elected representatives.
On their meeting with Awang Tengah, Lo said the minister was very responsive and had assured he would do the best he could and at the same time to ensure that the company abide with the state law.
Regrettably, their second request was rejected by the police.
Study retrenched workers’ plight
In a related development, Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How today called for a special select committee to be appointed to look into the plight of the 1,000 retrenched workers of Sanmina-SCI.
He has also urged the government to set up an emergency fund to assist the victims.
Moving a motion at the current State Legislative Assembly sitting, See said the “devious” manner by which the “unwarranted” closure of the factory was carried out deserved a strong message from the Dewan.
“The devious manner (closure by the company) calls for a strong message from this honourable Dewan such poor industrial practice is not tolerable and it is not to be taken lightly.
“I humbly pray that by a motion in this house a special select committee will be appointed to look into the plights of the retrenched workers and the legality and the impact of the closure of the factory at the Samajaya zone.
“It is further pray that the Dewan proposes, recommends and advises the state Attorney-General’s Chambers to promptly and urgently examine, study and consider the provisions under the Sarawak Labour Ordinance (Sarawak Cap 76) and propose amendments to better protect and safeguard the rights and interests of workers and manpower resources in Sarawak. ”
See also expressed hope that the state government would establish an emergency fund to provide immediate assistance to the retrenched workers.
See, who is also a Sarawak PKR vice-chairman, said that it had been detected and confirmed that several breaches in the retrenchment methodology had been committed by Sanmina such as it did not comply with specific provisions of the State Labour Ordinance, did not comply with the Malaysian code of conduct for Industrial harmony and did not inform the Labour Department with sufficient notice.
Under Section 12(2) of the Sarawak Labour Ordinance the length of notice of termination of contract of service shall be the same for both the employer and the employee that in the absence of such provision in the contract (employment contract) the notice shall not be less than four weeks for employment of less than two years; six weeks for employment between two to five years and eight weeks for employment of more than five years.
Exploiting workers ignorance
Sanmina chose to go under its own contract which states seven days’ notice, and it conveniently gives compensation of seven days’ wages in lieu of notice, irrespective of the workers’ years’ of service.
As retrenchment benefits, the company is paying below two years’ employment, 10 days’ wages per every year working; two to five years’ employment, 15 days wages per every year working and above five years, employment 20 days’ wages per every year working.
“This is a poor and obnoxious attempt by the company to exploit the ignorance of the workers, misuse and manipulating the provision of our Labour Ordinance.
“Besides the clear provision of Section 12(2) on the requisite statutory notice, Section 12(3) provides that such entitlement is regardless of anything to the contrary contained in the contract service,” he said.
He pointed out that the abuse and exploitation of the labour is partly due to the anomaly in the ordinance.
“The company argued that they were ill-advised, but these are not even credible excuses for a successful business concern to ill-treat and exploit our workers.
“In fact, our tribunals and courts have held, times and again, that provisions of 4,6 and 8 weeks’ notices are the minimal and applicable in cases of companies in financial hardship or industrial distress.
“Our industrial courts have made it trite law that successful business concerns, as in the case of Sanmina, offer fair and just compensation of between a month to two-and-a half month wages to each years’ employment.