KUCHING: Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen has urged the Ministry of Human Resources to immediately stop the exploitation of timber workers in rural areas in the state.
This call was made when debating the Employment Act (Amendment) Bill, 2011 during the Dewan Rakyat sitting on Thursday.
The Bandar Kuching MP said the government should cancel the exemptions given to the timber industry in Sarawak on the application of certain provisions under the State Labour Ordinance.
He pointed out that the Labour Ordinance of Sarawak (Amendment) Act, 2004 incorporated almost all the provisions of the Employment Act and should give protection to Sarawak employees against exploitation by their employers.
In a media statement here yesterday, Chong said the protections under the Ordinance included rights to guaranteed week, public holidays, rest after four hours of work, shift work, rest day and annual leave.
“The provisions of all the above fundamental rights of workers throughout Malaysia were exempted and excluded for workers in the timber industry in the non-urban areas of Sarawak,” he charged.
As a result, he said workers in the timber industry in the non-urban areas of Sarawak “are exploited by their employers.”
“These workers have no annual leave, no rest day, no rest hours, no public holidays, no guaranteed week of employment,” claimed Chong who is also Kota Sentosa assemblyman.
Chong further charged that the ministry gave the exemptions on the advice of Sarawak Timber Association (STA), adding: “The timber companies benefit from the exemptions at the expense of their workers.”
The reason given was that the timber industry in Sarawak “is peculiar in that work cannot be carried out during rainy days and can only be carried out when there is no rain,” he quoted.
“In other words, these timber companies will not be paying their workers on rainy days. This defeats the whole purpose of the Labour Ordinance which compels all employers to provide guaranteed weeks of employment to their workers so that they can maintain a decent living,” he said.
He added: “Most of these workers are the Dayaks and from the poorer sector of the population.”
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak branch had made many appeals to the ministry to cancel the exemptions but such appeals had fallen onto deaf ears, said Chong.
However, he said the MP for Kapit Alexander Nanta Linggi stood and supported his contention during the sitting.