by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic by ISMAIL CHE RUS
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong has denied claims that the government will replace employees on the Malaysian Cocoa Board (MCB) with foreign workers.
Mah reiterated that the ministry and the board had in principle backed down from MCB’s initial decision to dismiss a third of its staff.
He also assured that the government will find the funds needed to support the workforce.
“As it is, the board has already reappointed 93 of the employees, while the remaining 186 employees will be rehired, so it is not an issue. We’ve heard them and we will find the money to pay the workers so that they can contribute to projects under the 11th Malaysia Plan,” Mah told reporters after launching the Malaysian palm oil industry’s 100th anniversary commemorative coins in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
MCB, he said, is expected to hold a board meeting within the next two days to finalise the details of the retraction.
On July 10, some 281 MCB staff were given a termination notice that would take effect on Aug 13, without grounds or reasons given.
The sweeping move had affected 157 workers from Peninsular Malaysia, 76 in Sabah and 48 from Sarawak.
It was reported that out of the hundreds retrenched, one personnel had resigned instantaneously and 94 were given a three-month temporary stint.
However, the temporary employment did not come with a guarantee of an extension, while some were paid well under their previous wages.
This has prompted the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) to seek the government’s intervention in the layoffs.
Cuepacs president Datuk Azih Muda said the mass removal of the workers was unheard of for a government unit.
With an overall headcount of 732 employees, Azih said MCB should have a way to retain their small labour force.
“Why must they resort to such drastic action on such a large number of people? It gives the impression that something is wrong (at MCB). Is MCB in trouble? Is the economy so bad that they have to let go so many of their staff?
“Is the cocoa industry in a slump? Are they going private? Or are they planning on taking on foreign labour? It is very unusual that a government agency will resort to such actions,” he reportedly said.
In response, Mah issued a statement on Wednesday stating that the ministry and the board had reviewed the dismissal of the employees.