KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — Almost half of some 2,000 workers, mostly Malaysians, on the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project have been laid off since the project was suspended on July 3, Channel News Asia reported.
The Singaporean broadcaster said only 30 per cent of the entire workforce on the project, whose main contractor is China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC), in Bentong, Pahang, were foreigners.
“While negotiation is ongoing with China on ECRL, the fallout is already being felt on the ground following the project suspension on July 3rd.
“Half of the workforce has been retrenched, hurting mostly Malaysians. There are all together 8 base camps, this is in Bentong, Pahang,” Channel News Asia Malaysia bureau chief Melissa Goh tweeted in her video report.
While negotiation is on going with China on ECRL , the fallout is already being felt on the ground following the project suspension on July 3rd . Half of the workforce has been retrenched, hurting mostly Malaysians . There are all together 8 base camps,this is in Bentong, Pahang pic.twitter.com/DjiyjNarlb— Melissa Goh (@MelGohCNA) July 20, 2018
Channel News Asia reported that while some of the Chinese expatriates like engineers, the admin staff, and chefs’ families have gone back home on long leave, some local employees stayed at work.
“It’s a big shock for me because I have been here for this project for about one year,” a worker was quoted saying.
Another staff told Channel News Asia: “I feel sad because we have good progress for our project. Our team was doing well.”
Channel News Asia quoted industry sources as saying that the 688-km long rail project connecting the South China Sea off the east coast with shipping routes of the Straits of Melaka on the west will have to be scaled down.
The Pakatan Harapan government is reviewing the US$20 billion (RM94.5 billion) ECRL project among other “mega projects” in a bid to cut massive federal debt.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said last month that the project, reportedly at 15 per cent completion, could have a positive impact, but said the terms of its contracts must be renegotiated to bring down costs.