Sabah workers demand release of delayed wages and allowances

Members of the Sabah Timber Employees Union (STIEU) has castigated the Sabah forest Industries (SFI) and the state government for failing to release the salaries of 2,000 workers for the months of February and March 2021 respectively. 

Expressing their frustration and disappointment on social media, the trade unionists and their families posted photos of themselves holding placards demanding the immediate release of their salaries and allowances.

“Under the previous state government led by the Sabah Heritage Party (WARISAN), our petitions were heard. The government extended assistance on how to get the workers’ delayed salaries. But now, when we sought the help of the new state government under the Sabah People’s Alliance (GRS), it told us that it can’t do anything as it has little stake in the business and operations of SFI,” STIEU General Secretary Engrit Liaw said.  

Liaw said that it is extremely unfair for SFI to deprive its workers of their hard-earned salaries.  “We are now entering the month of Ramadhan and Eid in Malaysia.  The workers have families to feed and bills to pay. Who will now feed their starving children?” He asked. 

The union found an ally in Sindumin State Assemblyman (ADUN) Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob who reportedly submitted a letter to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor asking the government to immediately resolve the issue. This was after several SFI workers approached the assemblyman to seek his assistance. 

STIEU said that SFI has ceased operating since its sale and court battle. In August 2019, former Chief Minister Shafie Apdal made assurances that the government would continue to cover the salary payments of SFI workers until the company’s court case has been settled. However, Apdal was quick to downplay his administration’s intervention, saying that the Sabah government has only 2 percent stake in SFI’s company operations.  

This is not first time that SFI has struggled to pay its workers. The company was also besieged by complaints of delayed wages from its workers in 2015 and 2017.