Liew: Government Has A Moral Duty To Assist Retrenched SFI Employees

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FLASHBACK: SFI workers earlier in the year had to picket for days before the management finally settled their wages. Now the workers face a different dilemma.

By BORNEOTODAY
KOTA KINABALU: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Sabah has called on the State government to immediately intervene and assist the 1,350 employees of Sabah Forest Industries (SFI) who were affected by the temporary layoff programme.

Christina Liew, its Chairman reiterated that as the former owner and currently a shareholder of SFI, the State government has the moral duty to assist these SFI employees who owed their current dire straits to the State government’s ill-conceived decision of selling the company to the Lion Group in 1994.

Then in 2007, Ballarpur Industries Ltd (Bilt), India’s largest manufacturer of writing and printing paper purchased the company for RM945 million cash from the debt-laden Lion Group. The state government retains its 2.22% share.

CHRISTINA LIEW

Liew, who is also the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Sabah chairman cum Api-Api assembly woman in a statement issued Saturday was commenting on SFI’s announcement on Thursday of a Temporary Layoff Programme starting Jan 1, next year.

SFI, which has been paying salaries to its employees despite not being in operation, expects the duration of this programme to last up to end of June 2018. They would be paid full salary for the month of Dec 17.

Starting Jan 1, 2018, SFI will continue to pay 50 per cent of basic salary and 50 per cent of fixed allowance to affected employees.

Affected employees are not required to report for work and are free to work elsewhere during this period.

Employees are also allowed to continue to stay in the company’s housing colony, including enjoying the use of water and electricity as before.

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“Although it was reported that SFI will continue to pay 50 per cent of basic salary and 50 per cent of fixed allowance, but with the escalating cost of living nowadays, it would definitely be tough for the affected employees to make ends meet; it was also unclear on how long are the affected employees allowed to continue to stay in the company’s housing which provides water and electricity.

“Hence the State government’s intervention has become even more pressing now. We call on the state government and the relevant authorities to assist these retrenched workers by providing them further skills training, and offer them other jobs that are available in the market,” said Liew.

She also promised that if PH is voted into power in the next general election, it would provide solutions on how best to turn SFI around, so that it can continue to provide gainful employment to its employees.

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