Monday, June 16, 2014

MALAYSIA:::TNB unions demand YTL exits power industry

All four workers' unions of Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) came together in a rare show of unity today and urged the government-owned entity to cease all ties with YTL Corp.

Alleging that YTL has muscled in and profited handsomely from a nationally important power sector, the unions, which have some 35,000 members, demanded that TNB not renew YTL’s power purchase agreement when it expires in 2015.

They also want TNB to stop working with YTL Power on Track 4A, a new proposal for a power plant in Pasir Gudang, Johor, which was recently awarded by the Energy Commission.
“Make sure YTL is not given any project generation or electricity project in this country,” TNB Junior Officers Union (TNBJOU) president Mohd Roszeli Majid told reporters outside TNB’s Kuala Lumpur headquarters today.

“We have had a bad experience with them. Once bitten, twice shy. Never again, for the sake of our future generations.”

This is the first time the TNBJOU has brought up such a protest in 67 years, Roszeli said, as he led a group of about 500 workers to march to the TNB headquarters.

There, they handed over a four-page memorandum of protest to TNB president and CEO Azman Mohd, who came out to meet the workers.

Not angry with TNB

TNBJOU's Roszeli emphasised that the workers were not angry with TNB management but only with YTL Corp's subsidiary YTL Power, which has been a pioneer independent power producer (IPP) since power generation was privatised in 1993.

As they marched, the protesters shouted “Hidup pekerja, hidup TNB” (Long live workers, long live TNB) in unison and then “Hancur YTL, Tolak YTL.” (Destroy YTL, reject YTL).

Roszeli urged TNB to take back power generation from IPPs, starting with YTL, as only the national entity can ensure people do not suffer blackouts.

"We have a social obligation to the people," he said, adding that IPPs like YTL were squeezing TNB dry of profits as nearly 40 percent of TNB's  operational costs went to them.

"TNB has to run - by hook or by crook," he added, noting that as a profit-driven private company, YTL did not really care when electricity prices go up, affecting millions of Malaysian households.

Roszeli estimated that TNB had paid out RM20 billion to YTL Corp.
He said the workers' anger went beyond any personal tiff with YTL Corp's managing director Francis Yeoh, who drew much criticism two weeks ago when he allegedly voiced out against crony capitalism at a government-backed forum.

"I anticipated that this question will come out from the reporters. YTL is the first IPP and so that's why this is a landmark case," Roszeli said.

"YTL is just the start; other IPPs will also be made as examples."

He added that the workers have long been frustrated by how TNB suffered silently for the sake of the people to ensure secure electricity while IPPs reaped fat profits.

Two weeks ago, Yeoh had said YTL succeeded through its ingenuity and others could do the same.

Yeoh denied that YTL, which expanded into an international conglomerate with many businesses during the regime of Malaysia's fourth prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, had received special favours.

YTL was founded in 1955 by Yeoh Tiong Lay, one of Malaysia's richest tycoons.

Besides power, YTL Corp is also in hotels, construction and property, high speed rail and telecommunications.

Besides TNBJOU, the others in the protest were the TNB Executive Union (PETNB), Security Unit Union (Perunika) and TNB Conglomerated Workers Union (KPPPTNB).

Serious consideration

Meanwhile, TNB's CEO Azman Mohd  told reporters after receiving the protest memo that the workers’ sentiments would be given serious consideration.

"TNB would like to reaffirm that we have not had any prior discussions with any party regarding the matter. As of now, we can confirm that we have only received the offer letter. We refute claims or assumptions that we are already part of the consortium," he said.
Azman (right) added that TNB would now evaluate whether it would partake or pull out from the consortium by the July 25 deadline.

He further clarified that TNB did not initiate the project to build a combined-cycle 1,000 -1,400 MW power plant, nor asked for YTL to be included.

The Energy Commission had directly awarded the power project to a consortium of  SIPP Sdn Bhd, YTL and TNB last month without an open bidding process, citing that it needed to fast track the construction of the power plant to meet the country's growing energy needs.

Azman told reporters that the three companies have yet to meet to hammer out the project details.

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