KUALA LUMPUR: Some 130 employees from Lynas Corporation (Lynas) gathered in front of Parliament on Tuesday (Dec 11) to urge the government to save their jobs.
This followed an announcement that the government wants the company to remove its radioactive waste or else the licence for the RM3.3bil plant in Gebeng will not be renewed.
Jumaat Mansor, a human resources manager representing the group of workers, said they have gathered to handover a memorandum in protest against the government’s threats to revoke the company’s licence if it fails to remove its 451,564 metric tonnes of Water Leech Purification (WLP) residue, which contains radioactive substances.
“We are representing Lynas workers, not the management. We want justice and job security,” he told reporters when met outside the Parliament.
Jumaat said the group consisted of supervisors, technicians, and other staff members. They had travelled from Kuantan on Monday (Dec 10) night, and gathered in front of Parliament at 8.15am.
“Some even came on their off days on their own will. We did not force them,” said the HR manager.
“Only 3% of us are Australians, the others are locals… We have been reviewed a total of eight times, all the findings from experts have said that our operations are safe,” he claimed.
Lynas has 600 permanent workers and 400 contract workers.
The company's operations was recently reviewed by an executive review committee, which was formed by the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry on Oct 15.
On Dec 4, the review committee found the rare earth materials producer to be in general compliance with all relevant regulations.
However, it recommended that Lynas immediately identify and build a permanent disposal facility (PDF) for its radioactive residue.
This was based on the risk of the residue accumulated on site.
On that matter, Jumaat urged the government to take into account the committee's report, which had recommended a PDF be built, and for the radioactive waste to be sent back to Australia only if the PDF fails.
“If the licence cannot be renewed, the factories can’t operate and we will be jobless,” he said.
Lynas’ senior manager of the Plant Finance department, Leau Hui Ming, said that she was upset because she claimed the recommendations by the executive review committee were not taken into account.
“The report clearly said we are low risk. So we feel a bit sad because of the government’s decision - that we have to ship out our waste.”
She said that Lynas workers deserve to be fairly treated by the government, adding that any decision made must be based on scientific facts, rather than politics.
Mimi Afzan, 52, a vice-president at the human resource and community department, expressed sadness over the government’s silence on the plight of local workers in Lynas.
“I’m feeling so upset because we have to fight for ourselves. Nobody wants to hear us, we have sent countless letters but they wouldn’t meet us,” she said, referring to Indera Mahkota MP Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.
“Why are we being scrutinised like this? We are only asking to be treated fairly… Lynas will not shut down but Lynas Malaysia will shut down… Where are we going to go? Does anyone has an answer for that?” she questioned.
On Wednesday (Dec 5), it was reported that Lynas is mulling legal action, after the Ministry added new conditions to renew the licence for its US$800mil (RM3.3bil) plant in Malaysia.
The Ministry said that the Lynas rare earth refinery in Gebeng would be allowed to continue operating, provided it removes and disposes its 451,564 metric tonnes of WLP residue from Malaysia.
The Ministry also said that Lynas must submit an action plan on the disposal of its non-radioactive neutralisation underflow residue (NUF) scheduled waste totalling 1.113mil metric tonnes.
The Ministry added that Lynas had promised, via letters of undertaking in 2012, to remove the radioactive residue from Malaysia, if necessary.
On Lynas’ plans to take legal action against the government, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change minister Yeo Bee Yin, said that the government is ready for it.