Retrenched workers stage protest

SEEKING DIALOGUE: Almost one thousand local workers at the peaceful demonstration express their support for fellow local workers who were retrenched as Madang (black shirt, right) tries to calm them down.

BINTULU: Several hundred retrenched local workers from several sub-contractors operating in Samalaju Industrial Park (SIP) here staged a peaceful protest yesterday.

The protesters, supported by colleagues who are still employed, started gathering at the main road connecting several main plants at 5am yesterday to express their dissatisfaction over their retrenchment.

Local workers here felt their employers had neglected their welfare and requested for a dialogue with their employers on Sunday to solve the issues.

However, the companies ignored their call for a meeting and this led to the workers staging their peaceful demonstration yesterday.

The protest brought the whole operations and construction works at the site to a standstill for the whole day.

The police and personnel from General Operations Force led by the Bintulu police chief Superintendent Madang Usat were on standby for any eventualities but the picket was held peacefully.

Most of the workers were terminated without notice as some were not registered with Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and covered by Social Security Organisation (Sosco) while others did not even have a proper contract for their employment.

One of the workers said, upon receiving the termination of his service he did ask for explanation but one of the foreign companies gave many excuses.

Instead they were given two options of either accepting their service termination or stay on but with wage deduction.

It was said that the employers preferred foreign workers and that some 300 of them were on standby to replace the local workers.

The local workers also brought up other issues brought up against their employers.

Senator Datuk Pau Chiong Ung and several leaders of the opposition parties were also present at the site.

Pau later had a closed-door discussion with several representatives from Tokuyama and Chiyoda.

Meanwhile, Bintulu MP Datuk Tiong King Sing expressed his deep concern over the recurrence of the workers’ strike here yesterday.

In a press statement, Tiong, who is also chairman of BN Backbenchers’ Club, appealed for calm and dialogue between the two parties to iron out their differences.

He said he was now overseas but had been briefed by his service centre on the incident and that he was glad order had been restored prior to negotiation between the workers and their employers today.

He said through the phone of Pau, he had spoken to the workers’ representative, and the workers had agreed to end the strike paving the way for the further talks between the workers and their employers.

Tiong added he would not comment further now, as he had to listen to both sides on the issues.

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