About 20 administrative and technical workers of an electrical switchboard company in Ipoh paid the price of placing too much trust and loyalty on their employer.
Once a bustling company of over 80 – 100 workers, Kinta Switchgear (KSG) was wound up in the middle of 2019, that is before the pandemic, but the workers were not informed. The company continued functioning as normal, the only catch being that salaries were not paid in full. The workforce began to shrink after that.
One and a half years later, in early 2021, the employer wrote a lengthy letter to the workers, about the dire financial straits of the company, in passing mentioning the winding up order against it. With the much reduced and unreliable salary payments more workers left in search of employment elsewhere.
But about 20 workers mostly with 20 years of service or more stayed on in support of the employer, keeping operations going, all the while believing in the promises of the employer to settle all salary balances on the many deadlines he set. The salary assistance program of SOCSO procured by the employer for the workers of the company also encouraged the workers to stay on.
Insolvency laws say that companies that are winding up should immediately terminate contracts of employment and cease operations, but KSG breached these laws by continuing to function for 2 ½ years before finally giving retrenchment notices to their remaining workers in December 2021. The employer gave further assurances of settlement of all outstanding wages, and retrenchment benefits by the middle of February 2022.
But no payments were made by the employer and it was only then that the workers felt deceived. They felt they had been used by the employer for over two years to help shore up his financial situation at the expense of their own welfare, and in violation of their rights. Workers question the silence and inaction of the Insolvency Department in protecting the workers.
It remains to be seen whether upon liquidation of the company’s assets, the workers will be paid the unpaid wages of over RM20,000 each, and retrenchment benefits.
The workers of KSG feel betrayed by their employer and say in hindsight that they shouldn’t have trusted their boss, that they should have left the company a year ago and found another job. They feel that a caring and responsible employer would have advised the workers much earlier to leave for jobs elsewhere, or like an employer they know of, mortgaged his own property to pay his workers’ outstanding salaries.
Parti Sosialis Malaysia