The Sarawak division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has questioned the state government's "double standards", after it announced a freeze on work permits for peninsular Malaysians working at Petronas' operations in the state.
Sarawak MTUC said the state government was only concerned about protecting senior and connected Sarawakians and their firms, noting it had not heeded MTUC's numerous complaints on other worker issues.
"The state government is so quick to protect 13 senior executives but at the same time turns a blind eye to the tens of thousands of foreign workers that are depriving ordinary Sarawakians of decent jobs with decent wages.
"These are really foreigners, including North Koreans," said Sarawak MTUC secretary Andrew Lo in a statement.
Lo was referring to the 13 experienced staff who were retrenched from Petronas' Sarawak operations following its upstream restructuring exercise – an issue first raised by think-tank Suarah Petroleum Group (SPG).
SPG had also claimed that only 39 percent of management positions and 46 percent of mid-management posts in Petronas' Sarawak operations were filled by Sarawakians.
The outcry following SPG's statement prompted the state government to issue the moratorium earlier this month.
While Lo said he understood the retrenched Petronas staff's plight, redundancies in the corporate world “are nothing new” and even expected in Petronas' case, given the current low oil prices.
He said the influx of foreign workers was a more pressing matter, since they were driving out thousands of Sarawakians looking for work.
Lo added that politics should not get in the way of hiring or firing, and businesses should be not be dictated by politicians who have their own agenda.
"It should not be used as an attempt to get more contracts for connected Sarawakian companies.
"Such actions will be counterproductive and will discourage investments by foreign companies in Sarawak to create decent jobs," Lo said.