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'Uncertain future for SFI workers'

I attended the protest organised by the victims action committee of the Sabah Forest Industries Sdn Bhd (SFI) to give them all the support we can give to help fight for their welfare and get their due salaries.

I was there together with Parti Warisan Sabah chief coordinator for Sipitang Samlih, Sipitang youth chief Nazib, Hajah Johair and entourage.

There are approximately 1,600 Sabahan workers working in SFI and now they are living through the days with fear and uncertainty as to their job security and everyday living needs since November 2016.

SFI has apparently been delaying to pay the workers’ salaries since 2016 and the wait gets longer and longer by the weeks. Since December 2016, I was told, SFI has allegedly stopped making EPF deductions for their workers.

Though a foreign company, they operate in Sabah and when doing so, they will have to comply with the Sabah labour law and other related laws.

Why hasn’t the Sabah government taken drastic steps to make sure SFI complies with the existing laws?

The sad part is that despite their (the action committee’s) pleading and the workers union’s open letter to the Sabah government to intervene in this matter and help victims find a way to resolve this fiasco amicably, the state government and even the wakil rakyat for the Sipitang area, the assemblyperson for Sindumin, has apparently not responded and chose to keep mum.

The Sabah government is obliged to look into the plight of the people of Sabah in Sipitang SFI as it is the very same government which has allegedly allowed foreigners (from India) to take up 98 percent of the SFI shares.

The Sabah government still holds 2 percent of the shares so the representative should find out the actual situation from SFI’s management and reveal it to the workers.

I was told that the workers union members had briefed state secretary Sukarti Wakiman on the workers’ plight and yet nothing has materialised.

It’s so sad and a shame on you, the BN Sabah government.

The Sabah government at the very least should help to be the bridge for the union and the company’s stakeholders to sit down at a round table to iron things out.

What’s the real situation of this fiasco and what’s the future of SFI as it will have a tremendous impact on the people of Sipitang (as many families depends on SFI jobs for survival) and business community in Sipitang (as the main economic activities in Sipitang are tied up with SFI’s operations).

SFI has apparently been a profitable business all these years and how did it end up losing money to the extent of seemingly not being able to pay workers’ basic salaries and the factory not being in operation for at least six months now?

This is a serious issue which the Sabah government must address with a sense of urgency as it concerns the livelihood of thousand of families in Sipitang and surrounding areas.

Don’t let our Sabahan workers be bullied by a foreign company while our government just sits still and pretends not to see the suffering conditions, stress, devastation and frustration of our very own Sabahans.

We will debate this issue up the incoming state assembly session so that the voices of the victims/workers can be heard in the search for a solution for this matter.

JUNZ WONG is vice-president of Parti Warisan Sabah and state assemblyperson for Likas.

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