THE total number of employees in the oil and gas industry in Sarawak who have been laid off from January to October this year is 220 people.
Assistant Minister of Industrial Development Datuk Julaihi Narawi said according to statistics from the state Labour Department, 219 of them were Sarawakians.
“They have been paid about RM26 million in compensation,” he said during the question-and-answer session at the State Legislative Assembly yesterday.
Julaihi was responding to a question from See Chee How (PKR-Batu Lintang) who asked him to state the total number of workers retrenched in the oil and gas industry in Sarawak this year from multi-national corporations, local contractor and subcontractor companies and the number of Sarawakian workers involved.
In his supplementary questions, See also queried whether the state government had discussed with Shell, and the progress of the negotiation, to play a constructive role including an ownership role in their upstream portfolio, as it was revealed that the retrenchment exercise of Shell was linked to Shell Overseas Holding Ltd’s plan to adjust its upstream portfolio, to dispose a 51 per cent stake in Shell Refining Co (Federation of Malaya) Bhd or converting its refinery into a terminal for import, export and storage.
He also asked whether the state government would engage Institut Teknologi Petroleum Petronas (Instep), the technical training institution for service providers in the petroleum sector owned by Petronas, to provide education, upscale training and skill development for those Sarawakian workers who might be retrenched in this current challenging time, so that they could be deployed into other sectors of the oil and gas industry or play more crucial role when the prices of oil and gas went up again.
In response, Julaihi, who is Sebuyau assemblyman, pointed out that Shell was a commercial entity with a strategy to plan their business for the long term.
“If there is any disposal of stake by Shell to any interested parties, I think it is purely a strategic planning on the part of Shell. They have not approached us.”
On the part of Petronas, Julaihi said there was no indication that Petronas would retrench the workers.
“Of course, if you talk about training, the state government is engaging Petronas on technical training as one of issues that have to be looked into if we were to encourage more Sarawakians to participate in the oil and gas industry.”
When met later, See said Shell had earlier announced that they were laying off 1,300 workers for their operation in Sarawak.
“What the assistant minister referred to could be just for a short period. The retrenchment of Shell workers was for this year until January 2016. Further, the contractors and subcontractors of Shell are also laying off their workers.”
Therefore, the answers given did not reflect the actual situation that the people were facing, adding that many more Sarawakians engaged in the oil and gas sector, probably 2,000 of them, were facing the fate of being laid off at the end of this month, and probably even more next year.
See said his supplementary questions were also suggestions to the state government on the steps to undertake, to take an active role in the petroleum development projects and make use of Instep to cushion the blows to Sarawakian workers in the important oil and gas industry when international corporations rationalise their operations in Sarawak during these challenging times.
“Those are pro-active steps to protect the interests of the state and our people in this sector,” he said.