Thursday January 31, 2013
HR experts must look into condition of workers to end strike
By STEPHEN THEN
MIRI: Government intervention through the Human Resources Ministry is needed to resolve disputes involving huge numbers of local and foreign workers, say some senior politicians.
Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, who is BN Backbenchers Club chairman, and Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar yesterday said there was a need for human resource experts to look into the working conditions of workers – both local and foreign – in places with a big number of them working together.
“There is a need for a specific set of blueprint to spell out issues pertaining to daily wages for non-salaried workers, accommodation benefits, social security and insurance coverage at the workplace, food allowances and other important matters pertaining to the working conditions so that their welfare is protected and ensured,” said Wan Junaidi to The Star yesterday.
He was referring to the strike at the Tokuyama industrial plant in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) belt that entered its third day yesterday at the Samalaju Industrial Estate, Bintulu.
The strike staged by the local workers, at one stage numbering more than a thousand, was over alleged unfair treatment by sub-contractors pertaining to the issues of pay and job opportunities, with the local workers claiming that foreign workers were getting better pay and benefits.
Tiong said yesterday that he would bring up the incident to the attention of the ministry in Putrajaya.
He flew to Kuala Lumpur following failed attempts to secure an amicable solution to the strike.
On Tuesday, Tiong spent several hours at the site trying to negotiate an acceptable solution between the protesting workers and their employers.
The workers were employed by a sub-contractor for infrastructure construction works for Tokuyama at the plant that was being developed to manufacture solar cells.
Yesterday, Senator Pau Chiong Ung visited the site and tried to get the disputing parties to sit down for talks.
He urged the Opposition politicians not to meddle.
“Some of the demands from the local workers, such as their demand for Sosco benefits, better wages, better living conditions and better opportunities for better jobs are reasonable.
“These are things their employers should be able to consider. However, the demands for all foreign workers to leave the site is not practical. All disputing sides must adopt an attitude of give-and-take and be reasonable and not excessive in their demands.
“The issue should not be exploited by the Opposition. If they are sincere in wanting to help resolve the standoff, they must not instigate the workers. They must be reasonable and think of the welfare of the workers. There can be no amicable solution unless everyone cooperates,” he said.
Wan Junaidi, who is Santubong MP, said the incident was of interest to the rest of the working community because it highlighted what could happen if the welfare of workers was ignored.
“The disputing sides should allow human resources experts to mediate. Look into the grievances at the site and have a thorough study of the working conditions there. There should not be any discrimination against local or foreign workers.
“Issues like wages, food, accommodation and the likes must be provided fairly to all,” he said.
Wan Junaidi proposed that a formula be drawn up by the ministry to determine how much pay locals and foreigners should get, as well as all the other basic needs they needed to have, so that problems such as this could be avoided in future.
Meanwhile, the strike continued yesterday.
Though local workers still refused to return to work, there were fewer protesters carrying banners and staging verbal protests.
Small groups of about 50 workers were seen hanging around the site office as Pau continued his attempts to speak to their representatives and the site management.
Bintulu police confirmed that the situation was under control, adding that it was peaceful at the site and that no one had been arrested.