‘ECRL let go mostly unskilled workers’


In a dilemma: According to a China-based subcontractor, many of those employed to work on the ECRL project have either taken pay cuts or been let go. —Bernama

In a dilemma: According to a China-based subcontractor, many of those employed to work on the ECRL project have either taken pay cuts or been let go. —Bernama

PETALING JAYA: Most of the 1,000 workers of East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), who are reportedly retrenched following the suspension order, comprise unskilled labour paid on a daily basis, says an industry source familiar with the matter.

“The layoff is necessary following the stop-work order,” the source said.

“They can be hired again anytime.”

The source added that close to 18% of the total workforce of ECRL are executives and expatriates from China, with the remaining 82% made up of Malaysian and Indonesian workers.

Most of these Malaysian and Indonesian workers – in almost equal proportions – were unskilled workers tasked to clear jungle or do heavy work, the source said.

The main contractor of the project, China Communications Construction Company (M) Sdn Bhd (CCCC), declined to comment when contacted.

An executive from a China-based subcontractor said some of the staff members were indeed affected by the suspension.

“There are three scenarios. Some of the staff were retrenched, some would only receive half of their salaries, while some were not affected at all.

“As for the local contractors, I was told some workers took a pay cut,” the executive said on condition of anonymity.

A Singaporean television news channel reported that while negotiations are ongoing with China on the ECRL, the fallout was already being felt on the ground following the project suspension with half of the workforce, mostly Malaysians, being retrenched,.

On July 3, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced that the final cost of the ECRL was a staggering RM81bil and that the 688km rail project would only be continued once the cost was lowered to a financially-viable level.

The previous Barisan Nasional government had said that the project would cost RM55bil.

Citing “national interest”, Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd has ordered ECRL’s main contractor CCCC to halt all engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning contract works, pending further instruction.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad previously said the ECRL contract terms were “strange” as the money from the RM55bil loan given by China Exim Bank for the project is being kept abroad and paid to the project’s main contractor, CCCC.

He said the payments to CCCC are not on the basis of work done but according to a pre-determined timetable, which is also not normal.

On Wednesday, the Malaysian Anti-Cor­ruption Commission seized documents related to three mega projects – the Multi Product Pipeline, Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline and ECRL.

More than 50 officers from the anti-graft agency raided 13 locations in the Klang Valley.

Tun Daim Zainuddin, a member of the Council of Eminent Persons, met senior officials in China last week to renegotiate loans and contracts Malaysia had given to the Chinese companies.