KOTA KINABALU, Jan 16 — The state government has decided to help workers of the embattled Sabah Forest Industries (SFI) which has ceased operations, with a one off payment of their salaries, including their Employee Provident Fund (EPF).
Assistant minister in the chief minister’s department Datuk Abidin Madingkir said that they decided to act out of compassion as the issue has been ongoing since 2019 and during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This includes payment of their salaries and EPF, with the latest being payment of some RM798,000 on electricity bills incurred by the former SFI workers,” he said, without going into details on how many employees were involved.
However, Abidin said that while the state government empathises with their plight, it is not sustainable for the government to solve their predicament in the long run.
“Pending the reactivation of the mill by a new concessionaire, the former workers have been advised to look at the matter realistically, to move on and to seek alternative employment,” he said in a statement this evening.
The workers were laid off by their former employer, India-based pulp and paper manufacturer Ballarpur Industries Ltd, which has been in receivership since 2017.
The state government had imposed a conditional requirement for the new concessionaire to set up operations within two years.
“The former workers may apply to work in the new company,” said Abidin, adding that the Sipitang district officer has been directed to engage and update the former SFI workers.
Since the issue started, both local and foreign staff have been pleading for government intervention as some have been not paid for up to five months of work.