All’s not lost for retrenched workers

Esquel Malaysia Sdn Bhd (formerly The Eastern Garment Co Sdn Bhd) plant in Bayan Lepas would be ceasing operations on June 12. — Filepic

THE Penang government, through its Penang Career Assistance and Talent (CAT) Centre, is offering help to 500 employees of Esquel Group Malaysia Sdn Bhd (EGM) who would be retrenched come June 12.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the closure of EGM factories in Penang and Kelantan certainly affected Malaysians, especially Penangites.

He said the 500 employees in Penang would be assisted and steps are being taken to help them.

“The state government has contacted EGM’s human resources department to handle the job matching and relocation for its staff in Penang,” he said in his Covid-19 online Facebook message on Saturday.

EGM, a Hong Kong-based textile and garment manufacturer, which was unprofitable since 2015, will cease operations after five decades as the Covid-19 situation has pushed the company over the edge.

The matter came to light after a letter dated April 15 was issued by the company’s general manager Edward Ho to its employees, informing them about the factories’ closure.

Currently, the employees at both plants in Penang and Kelantan are observing the movement control order (MCO).

They will resume work once the MCO is lifted until the company shuts down in June.

Chow said another impending closure involved garment producer TAL Group, which would be ceasing operations of Pen Apparel in Penang and Imperial Garments in Ipoh that have 2,600 employees, of which 30% are local.

It was reported that in a letter to employees, the company’s senior vice-president for manufacturing, Florence Lai, cited the Covid-19 pandemic as having adversely impacted leading garment manufacturers.

Lai had said that they were finalising the actual closure dates.

Chow said the state would also look into their needs immediately, especially the plant in Penang.

He said Penang could still offer 13,000 new jobs from last year’s investment in the manufacturing sector despite uncertainties in the sector due to the pandemic.

“Last year, from January till September, Penang recorded RM13.3bil in the form of approved investments in the manufacturing sector. This represents about 23% of the total investment in Malaysia’s manufacturing sector.

“The implementation of this investment has already begun and InvestPenang estimates the creation of some 13,000 new jobs.”

Chow said economy-wise, he realised that Penang and Malaysia might not be as dynamic as China where global market spending was balanced by their domestic market expansion.

He, however, said economically, the focus of ‘Penang Next Normal Strategy’ is to ensure the economic growth of Penang through the implementation of public projects as well as strengthening its small and medium enterprise sector.

In a statement yesterday, Chow said Penang, with its rich industrial experience, would be fundamental in helping the economy navigate through this unprecedented time.

“Over the past 50 years, our E&E (electrical and electronics) industry has clearly evolved and diversified its businesses and product portfolio.

“Given the strength of Penang in this industry, we are equipped to further break through into the next phase of manufacturing technologies, innovative tools and products entering the next normal, all of which will encourage new businesses and augur well for our local supply chain.

“Our medical device industry, a spin off from our E&E industry, has also flourished over the past decade.

“We have been attracting global medical players into Penang and this has created a strong platform and capacity for diversification.

“The current worldwide demand for medical supplies, products and equipment will open avenues for Penang in this segment and create new business and employment opportunities,” he said.

Chow added that the state would also look into strengthening food security by expanding its existing hub on food production, agriculture and fisheries resources.

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