Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been urged to step in to put a stop to the spree of sacking by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB), in his capacity as the Minister of Finance which overseas the rail company, said Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) vice-president J. Solomon.
Solomon said Malaysia does not have a positive image in terms of how employers’ treatment of their workers, especially foreigners.
“In past international labour conferences, Malaysia’s image and reputation has taken a battering as it has been ridiculed at these events,” he added.
Earlier this month, The Malaysian Insider reported that KTMB had sacked two top Railwaymen’s Union of Malaya officials, for participating in a picket against the company president.
Since then, KTMB has sacked 27 union members and suspended 18 others, while 88 other union members have been issued showcause letters.
They participated in a picket on May 9 to pressure KTMB president, Datuk Elias Kadir, to step down due to perceived non-performance.
RUM president Abdul Razak Md Hassan, among the first to be terminated by KTMB, said it was clear that Elias was abusing his powers.
“Elias was appointed by the MoF, how can he take such cruel measures against the very staff who want KTMB to improve after years of decline?
“The sackings have had an adverse effect on the families of those involved, including one case where a worker’s wife suffered temporary insanity.
“The worker’s wife ran off and left him, and when she was later located, she had to be admitted into hospital for observation and treatment.”
Razak said the sackings not only meant the loss of employment, but of accommodation and medical benefits, which was a huge blow to the terminated workers.
“The staff whose services were terminated by KTMB had been with the company for more than 20, 30 years. They had sterling service records with KTMB.”
Solomon said KTMB was a case study for Putrajaya.
“If the government could not protect its own workers, what more private and foreign workers?
“The Human Resources Ministry has been conspicuous by its silence on the KTMB issue, despite media coverage of the incident,” Solomon said.
MTUC president Mohamad Khalid Atan said as a last resort, they would file a complaint with the International Labour Organisation.
“The ILO is a tripartite body which comprises government, employer and employee. They can advise Putrajaya to resolve the issue,” Khalid said.
Razak revealed that RUM had personally passed a memorandum to Najib on September 14 in Langkawi, urging him to intervene in the issue.
“I am confident that Najib will be able to resolve the issue as he is also the Finance Minister,” Razak said.
“Lives have been turned upside down following the sacking spree by KTMB. One of the affected workers’ wife went to the KTMB headquarters to seek an explanation.
“However, she was not allowed to see the KTMB top management and was instead chased out of the building by auxiliary policemen.”
Khalid, Solomon and Razak were at the Regency Hotel in Kuala Lumpur to officiate the opening of RUM’s triennial assembly.
“Sacking should be a last resort, instead, KTMB has resorted to sacking as the first resort,” Khalid said.
“The tamest mammals in the world are Malaysian workers, that is why they get pushed around so much by their employers.
“Employers only pay lip service to their workers being assets, but they do not respect their workers rights.”
Razak said he believed that Putrajaya would not keep quiet and allow Elias to oppress KTMB workers.
“We are fighting for the company’s future, for our colleagues, for the next generation.
“It is a long and heavy struggle, but we will continue our fight, we will fight till the very end!” he said to applause from colleagues.
Razak said Elias was driving KTMB “into the ground”.
“The current dire straits KTMB finds itself in is testament to that,” he added.
He said an audit conducted in 2011 showed that the company suffered RM100 million in losses, which nearly tripled to RM280 million in 2012.
“The sacking is not justifiable because we were participating in one of RUM’s activities,” Razak said.
“Under Section 4 of Act 177 of the Industrial Relations Act 1967, it is clearly stated that no person shall interfere or coerce a workman from participating in union activities.
“We were clearly carrying out RUM activities during our picketing to agitate for the removal of Elias as KTMB president,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Razak pointed out that between 1961 and 1963, KTMB workers picketed for 23 days, bringing the railway operations to a complete halt.
“Nobody was sacked or subjected to disciplinary action during the picket. It was a rough time for KTMB.
“Our picketing was mild compared to what had occurred almost 50 years ago. So what is KTMB’s justification for sacking me and Subramaniam?” he asked.
Razak claimed that the safety of workers, train crews and passengers were at an all-time low, with the KTMB locomotives overdue for an overhaul.
“If you use a car for 10 to 15 years, even the engine would give way eventually. But KTMB has only carried out minor repairs on the locomotives.”
He said it was the same for the passenger coaches and the power generator cars, all of which were long overdue for major repairs.
He said the railway tracks were also in a bad shape, which forced trains to travel at the minimum speed.