A total of 1,182 employees, including 38 migrant workers, of Sabah Forest Industries (SFI) in Sipitang, Sabah, are pleading for their salaries after being unpaid for three months
According to Sinar Harian, employees erected white flags on Monday, 5 July, because they have run out of food and other daily essentials due to a lack of income.
One of the company's employees, 55-year-old Bolin Tongoi, said that they have not received any payment for the months of April, May, and June.
"We are suffering, especially financially. Although there is aid provided like food baskets, but we also need cash to buy other daily necessities," he told Sinar Harian.
"If we are paid, we can at least buy or add what is needed such as diapers and milk for the children."
To make matters worse, he said the employees were not notified of this sudden pay cut even though they have been working as usual, while their employers have remained mum on the issue.
SFI project assistant and Sabah Timber Employees Union (STEIU) secretary-general Engrit Liaw said that they have tried their best to get clarification from the state government, including the chief minister and his three deputies, on this issue
However they still have not received any response from the authorities, causing the workers to become more desperate.
"Usually on the 29th or 30th day of the month, they will receive their salary. So when the day came, they waited in a long queue at the bank but unfortunately no salary came in," Liaw said, according to Sinar Harian.
In the past three months, Liaw said the employees have still been asked to go to the office to carry out their duties.
Liaw added that they were promised payment and told everything would return to normal once the company's management takeover and other issues were settled
According to The Star, Liaw also said that many employees held onto this promise — that they would be paid — and did not quit when they started experiencing financial problems.
"Besides, where else can they find factory jobs now with the pandemic still raging and many economic sectors barely surviving?" she asked The Star.
"We are all hanging by a thread. Please, Sabah government, help us," Liaw pleaded.
On Monday, 5 July, Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general Kamarul Baharin Mansor said employees should at least be allowed to stay home if the company is not paying wages
"The government should be more sensitive and proactive with changes in company policy or practices," Kamarul said in a press statement on Sunday, 4 July.
He added that the case involving SFI is only one of many involving rural workers in Sabah.
On Friday, 2 July, the STIEU posted a chronology of their ongoing plight on their Facebook page to update the actions they have taken since March.
After back and forth with state authorities for three months, in their latest update on 30 June, the employee's union were only told that the government is working on managing payments either by this week or next week.
There has yet to be an official statement from the Sabah Chief Minister's office.
A student took it up a notch by creating an app that allows people to help identify households that need help: