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Laid-off workers cry for help

by Lian Cheng and Joanna Yap, reporters@theborneopost.com. Posted on November 22, 2012, Thursday

UNHAPPY: A retrenched worker holds a placard expressing their frustration.

Some 800 retrenched workers of Sanmina-SCI protest outside DUN complex

KUCHING: The third day of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting yesterday saw about 800 retrenched workers of Sanmina-SCI (M) Sdn Bhd (Sanmina) staging a peaceful protest at the entrance of the road leading to the DUN Complex in a desperate attempt to present their petition to the state government and elected representatives.

“We have to succumb to such a move because until now we have yet to get a response from the state government. Only the Labour Department has been in contact with us, but the department is telling us different things each day,” claimed James Jalai, chairman of the Ex-Samnina Employees’ Pro tem Committee, yesterday afternoon.

“We really hope to meet Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to present our petition.”

Instead of meeting Taib, eight individuals representing the pro tem committee and Malaysia Trade Union Congress (MTUC), were allowed in for a closed-door meeting with Minister of Industrial Development
Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.

The 19-point petition stated their plight, the unfair laid-off treatment, pleas to the state government to intervene for better retrenchment compensation, and to right the wrong purportedly inflicted on them by the printed circuit board manufacturing company.

Among the actions which they hoped the government would take include directing Sanmina to fulfill its legal and corporate obligations to its employees; request the federal government to lodge the strongest protest against Sanmina with the United States Government over the inhumane and high-handed retrenchment process, and to amend the law for better protection of workers in Sarawak.

At a press conference after the meeting, Awang Tengah explained that the state government had actually tried to intervene as early as Oct 29 where he appealed to Sanmina to defer the retrenchment exercise until the end of the year to enable the government and Malaysia Investment Development Authority (Mida) to find a solution to the problem.

“I have also instructed Labour Department to ensure that the retrenchment exercise fully complied with the Sarawak Labour Ordinance in terms of compensation and retrenchment benefits and to assist the retrenched workers to find work at similar industries in Sama Jaya Industrial Zone,” said Awang Tengah.

MTUC (Sarawak) secretary Andrew Lo, who also attended the closed-door meeting, said he was hopeful about the “receptive response” of the state government.

However, he did not mince his words about the conduct of the police towards the retrenched workers who had gathered at the entrance of the road leading to the New DUN Complex.

They were barred from entering the complex and were seen taking shelter under trees outside the old DUN complex from around 10.30 am until noon.

They only started to march towards the new DUN Complex after been informed that they were permitted to enter the complex. However, they were prevented by police from proceeding at the entrance of the only road leading to the complex, and there they waited until Jalai and Lo came back from the closed-door meeting.

Lo gave them a short briefing about what had transpired at the meeting, and all of them dispersed at about 1.50 pm.

The closure of Sanmina-SCI Kuching facility started on Oct 30, and by Oct 31 more than 800 of its 1,019 employees had been retrenched.

Jalai claimed that a total of 955 had been laid off as of yesterday, with no explanation from the global electronics contract manufacturer.

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