KUCHING: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress Sarawak (MTUC) has expressed the hope that while Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem energetically goes after illegal loggers, he would also keep in mind that there are other sides to a longstanding problem in the timber industry.
MTUC listed among these as timber contractors short-changing workers and denying them overtime claims, EPF and Socso.
“There’s no enforcement when it comes to the poor workers from the longhouses,” said MTUC Sarawak secretary Andrew Lo in a press statement.
“In a lot of cases at the Appellate Board of Socso, these workers were not entitled to Socso coverage when they suffered employment injury, even death.”
Lo was commenting on Adenan getting the heads of six big timber firms in Sarawak to sign Corporate Integrity pledges. The pledges were signed by the KTS Group of Companies, Rimbunan Hijau, Samling, Shin Yang, Ta Ann and WTK Holdings.
Lo hopes the Corporate Integrity pledges signed by the big six would translate into better treatment of their workers.
“The Chief Minister nailed it on the head when he told the timber titans to monitor their contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers, and camp managers,” he added. “But such monitoring must not be confined to just watching out for illegal felling. The welfare of the workers must also be kept in mind.”
MTUC also warned that the forests of Sarawak are fast disappearing and being replaced by oil palm plantations.
“We can no longer claim that 80 per cent of Sarawak is under forest coverage,” said Lo. “Please don’t tell us that oil palm plantations are forests.
The area from Gunung Serapi in Matang along the coast all the way to Batang Kayan in Lundu, on the doorsteps of Kuching, has already been stripped bare by timber companies, stressed Lo in pointing out an example.