No Deal! Picketing SFI Workers Tell Bosses They Want Their Wages Now

Workers picketing outside the SFI building on Friday. They have rejected a management memo pledging to pay up their February wages by next week.

SIPITANG: Embittered workers at Sabah Forest Industries are insisting on being paid their February salaries without further delay despite management promising to settle the outstanding dues on or before March 20.

They will continue to picket outside the SFI buildings here at least until SFI bosses come out and meet them face to face instead of hiding in their offices and refusing to meet union leaders.

On Friday, Sabah Timber Employees Union (STIEU) chief Martin Andong attempted to meet up with SFI Unit head, Vinay Dwivedi, but he refused to meet with anyone, said STIEU secretary-general Engrit Liaw.

“He also refused to meet with Malaysian Trade Union Congress (Sabah) leaders who wanted to meet up for a discussion,” she said, adding the picket would continue on Saturday and even next week if demands are not met.

STIEU members handing out sandwiches to the picketing workers on Friday.

She said the workers have rejected the memo issued by the SFI management saying February wages would be paid later in March.

MTUC deputy president, Margaret Chin said she and union head Awang Ali Ahmad Raji had joined the SFI workers in their third day of picketing on Friday.

“Some of the workers’ loans were deducted from their salary but they found that it was not paid to the banks,” she said in a brief statement.

“They have been getting their salary in phases since last October. The workers are forced to picket because they got no choice….they need to feed their families…they have loan commitments…they need the salary to support themselves and their families,” she said.

The SFI Unit Head had refused to meet up with MTUC and STIEU chiefs who had hoped to meet up on Friday.

Catherine urged the state government to step in immediately to resolve the matter as soon as possible.

Assistant branch secretary of STIEU, Dayang Rosmawatye Salleh said workers were saddened by the inaction of the state government.

“Yes,i am very sad because they (government) is still choosing to ignore us until now. We don’t understand why; we are locals furthermore. We need answers,” she said.

On Thursday, SFI said they would be paying staff their February salary before or on March 20.

According to its Human Resource General Manager Susiman Many, the company was unable to pay the February salary due to financial constraints and had relentlessly tried to resolve the situation.

“We, the SFI management, have been consistently disbursing salaries to our employees until January, this year.

“But for the month of February, the salary disbursement has been delayed due to financial constraints and we will be disbursing it to all our employees on or before March 20,” he said.

Susiman said the management always valued the employees as their biggest asset.