KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Timber Industries Employees Union (Stieu) yesterday urged the state government to intervene in the temporary layoff programme for 1,390 employees of Sabah Forest Industries (SFI) Sdn Bhd.
Stieu president Martin Andong said the layoff not only affected the employees, but also their families as well.
“Some of the employees have four or five children at school.
“With such small salaries, how are we supposed to cope with the living costs and our children’s education?” he said to reporters here yesterday.
Martin said the state government should intervene in this layoff programme as SFI, being the only pulp and paper mill in Sabah and Malaysia, was the pride of the state.
“The government has to safeguard the name and image (of SFI),” he said, adding that the SFI employees were all Sabahans.
He said the announcement of the temporary layoff programme came as a shock to the employees as there was no prior negotiations with the workers beforehand.
Martin said only around 200 of the total 1,600 employees at SFI were retained for work and paid full salaries.
The employees who are temporarily laid off were free to work elsewhere during the period.
He said the 1,390 employees would cease to work starting December 10 and be paid half of their salaries for six months effective January 2018.
“The company told us that we will be laid off for six months. If there is a new owner for the company after six months, we will be called back to work.
“But there is no black and white letter for the employees.
“If there is no new owner, will the employees still be paid half of their salaries after six months?”
In addition, Martin said there were more than 20 employees under probation who had been terminated.
He said SFI had conducted open interviews several months ago in Labuan, Kota Kinabalu and Keningau to recruit employees.
“These employees were terminated after three to five months of work.
“Why conduct the interviews in the first place?”
Martin lamented that it would be difficult for the 1,390 employees to search for other jobs and to cope with the increasing living costs with their children in schools.
“It is the union’s stance to urge the state government to address the plight faced by the 1,390 employees and the termination of workers who are on probation.”