It all started with an untimely announcement by the Chief Minister of Sabah, Datuk Musa Aman.
Musa, who is also Finance Minister, made a sudden announcement soon after midnight Tuesday (16 September 2003) to declare Wednesday a public holiday, to a loud applause by the remaining audience at the National Merdeka Month closing celebration at the Likas Sports Complex.
This (extra holiday) was a gesture of appreciation by the State Government for all those Sabahans involved in making the celebration a success.
Many workers were caught off-guard and were disappointed by the sudden announcement, saying they had wasted their time travelling long distances, from as far as Papar, Beaufort and Tuaran to their places of work, only to discover some of their colleagues waiting there in a state of confusion.
There were also confusion among standard six student who were sitting for their Ujian Penilain Sekolah Rendah (UPSR). Some schools were forced to look for their students one by one to make sure that they do not miss their examination.
Many more were stucked in Tarakan and Nunukan, East Kalimantan, Indonesian when passengers on ships were told that Tawau Immigration was closed due to the sudden announcement of holiday. Immigration office at the passenger terminal in Tawau are not open on public holidays and Sundays. These passengers who were already on board the ships were told to leave causing them to incure additional expenses on transportation, food, lodging and connecting transportations cancellation.
Then there were workers who turned up for work and continued to work after learning about the late announcement of holiday. Since they were working on a public holiday they are naturally entitled for they double pay.
However, according to a Sabah Labour Department official, the public holiday on Wednesday announced by Chief Minister Datuk Musa Haji Aman has not been gazetted and is therefore not a statutory holiday. He said under the Sabah Labour Ordinance (SLO), such holiday is merely an ordinary holiday.
He said since the Chief Minister merely announced the holiday and did not get it gazetted as a statutory holiday, those who worked on that day were not entitled to any extra allowance.
The official said those who worked on Wednesday were only entitled to normal pay and no pay for those who did not work.
“For those monthly-salaried workers who did not come to work on Wednesday, their employers may deduct their salary for that day.
“If the Wednesday holiday is gazetted, those who worked on that day can enjoy a minimum double pay,” he added.
Subsequently, the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) has urged employers in the State to pay allowance to their workers who worked on the public holiday on Wednesday although it is not a gazetted holiday.
At the same time, it also urged the employers not to deduct the salary of those workers who did not turn up for work on that day.
In making the call Saturday, MUTC Sabah Branch Secretary Catherine Jikunan said this is the way for employers to show their appreciation to those who worked on that day.
She said under the Sabah Labour Ordinance (SLO), employers have the right not to pay overtime or allowance to workers working on a non-gazetted holiday like Wednesday, but they should consider their workers’ contributions and establish good working relations with them (workers) so as to enhance productivity.
She said inconsiderate bosses would not be able to maintain good relations with their workers and as a result, productivity would suffer, to the detriment of all.
This is all the mess created by our wise Chief Minister, Datuk Musa Aman. If you are really responsible and care for your people, please clear this mess as soon as possible before your rating decline even further.
Election is around the corner, if you do forget, Datuk.