By Annabelle Lee

A group of estate workers has finally been promised new homes as well as financial compensation by ex-employer Sime Darby, the victory a culmination of their 13-year battle against their ex-employer.

(To read this article in Malaysiakini click here.)

Twenty-one employees representing 17 families, many whom have been living on the estate for several generations, have been promised a one-and-a-half storey low-cost terrace houses, as well as the termination benefits withheld from them since they were laid off 13 years ago.

“This was a well-earned reward for the 17 families, who refused to leave the plantation when they were given the termination and eviction notice on April Fool’s day in 2004,” said the Semenyih Estate Ex-Plantation Workers Committee in a statement.

The settlement between the two parties was signed on Feb 28 this year.

In 2004, plantation owners sent termination notices to more than 40 workers, as well as evicting them and their families from their housing at the Semenyih estate, threatening to withhold retrenchment benefits if they failed to comply with the eviction order.

Many families heeded the notices but 17 families decided against moving and formed the Semenyih Estate Ex-Plantation Workers Committee to protest the unfair treatment.

“There has been a policy since 1993 that plantation companies must first build houses before evicting them (workers)… (but) the plantation companies were equally influential in trying to evict estate workers using their connections,” the committee said.

S Arutchelvam of Parti Socialis Malaysia (PSM), which helped in the negotiations, said that the plantation was then taken over by Sime Darby Properties and Plantations which began selling parts of the estate to various developers.

Development works undertaken by the developers had affected the families’ water source on the estate and the committee protested by creating barricades and putting up signboards.

They also approached the Selangor state government for help. The committee received support from previous Selangor executive council members Xavier Jayakumar and Ganabatirau Veraman.

Sime Darby Properties and Plantations eventually agreed to negotiate a settlement with the Semenyih estate families in 2015.

The committee demanded a Sales and Purchase agreement to be signed and to be compensated with new houses.

After “intense closed-door discussions”, both parties arrived at the current settlement where Sime Darby agreed to sign a Sales and Purchase Agreement and the 17 families were promised houses within 32 months.

Malaysiakini understands that the 17 families (who stayed on) will be given new houses while the families who previously left the estate are eligible to purchase the houses at a subsidised price.

“Sime Darby was rushing for time as they had sold the land to a third party and these 17 families were obstacles… Both parties got what they wanted,” the committee said.