KUCHING: Sarawak will move to cancel work permits of non-Sarawakians if Petronas does not cooperate with the state government on its demand that the oil firm increase its number of local workers.
Chief Minister Adenan Satem said the current moratorium imposed by the state government was part of the overall push to ultimately raise Sarawak’s share of revenue collected from its oil and gas wells.
Speaking for the first time on the matter of the retrenchment of Sarawakian employees by Petronas, Adenan did not take kindly to the fact that laid-off workers were replaced by non-Sarawakians.
He insisted that the number of Sarawakian workers be increased.
“Now, we are putting a freeze on work permits of Petronas personnel from outside of Sarawak,” he told an audience of Sarawakian workers at a meet-the-people dinner in Johor Bahru tonight.
“If you (Petronas) don’t do that, we’ll freeze your work permits,” Adenan said, according to an audio recording of his speech obtained by FMT.
Last week, Petronas retrenched 13 Sarawakian workers following a restructuring exercise. Petronas also abolished 29 permanent positions, according to non-profit group Suarah Petroleum Group (SPG).
This then prompted Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah Embas to announce on Monday that all work permits for non-Sarawakian Petronas workers were frozen until further notice. Adenan was reportedly out of the state this week.
“We have always insisted that Sarawakians be given priority. The next step is if that doesn’t work, we’ll cancel the work permits already given and replace them with our own,” Adenan said tonight.
“But we will do that step by step. We won’t do it altogether. We’ll do it step by step. And we want the royalty to be increased from 5% to more than 5%.”
Officials from Petronas will meet Uggah and State Secretary Mohamad Morshidi Abdul Ghani on Monday pertaining to the national oil company’s employment issues.
“Whatever they say, we want the truth. If what they say is right, we won’t dispute. If there are some issues, we would like the issues resolved amicably,” Uggah said on Wednesday.
He said the state government wanted transparency and fairness in the matter.
Petronas, in a statement, on Tuesday insisted that a lot of its workforce in Sarawak were locals and that the state remained a key investment state for the company, with its workforce continuing to grow.
It expected the majority of the workforce to meet the demand would constitute of Sarawakians, as per existing requirement practices.
“A number of positions are expected to be filled by experienced employees, who may include non-Sarawakians,” the statement said.
Petronas also said the key to the successful operations in the state was the support and commitment of all parties, most importantly its qualified and dedicated employees “no matter where they are from”.
Early this month, Sarawak DAP leader Chong Chieng Jen had criticised the employment policy of Petronas in Sarawak, in which less than 39% of the management positions and 46% of the middle management positions were filled by Sarawakians in Petronas’ operations in the state.