Job adverts erected in front of Press Metal plant in Balingian Mukah.

Job-hunting longhouse folk here say that a huge smelter plant nearby has failed to live up to promises of providing job opportunities.

The plant’s owner, however, claims that the response to numerous advertisements in major newspapers and radio stations has not been encouraging.

To encourage locals, Press Metal Bhd, which owns the Press Metal Mukah plant, said it even conducted walk-in interviews here, Mukah, Miri and Kuching but only three to five people turned up.

The company said that some of those who applied demanded unrealistic salaries.

However, job seeker Udap Jung, 53, from Rumah Bansan, said the plant continued to reject his applications for a permanent job since it started operations.

Years ago, when news of the smelter reached Rumah Bansan, the longhouse nearest to the plant, Udap was excited about prospects of landing a full-time job with regular pay.

“Honestly, I thought I would be among the first to be hired because it was my land that the company took to build its plant. But look at me, I’m jobless until today,” Udap said yesterday.

He was not ashamed to say that he expected a decent job in the plant after parting with his land, insisting that “it is only fair that the company reciprocate”.

“Since day one, I have applied for several positions, including as a security guard, but have been told that I am too old and do not have the necessary qualifications,” he said.

Udap’s village mate Jelintan Gelanggang was equally disappointed with the company which “gave a glowing picture of what the plant can do to help longhouse folks improve their incomes”.

“When the company’s people first came here, they said there would be hundreds of jobs for us. As a farmer all my life, I really looked forward to being hired, yet I am still a farmer today,” Jelintan said.

Jelintan’s relative Bia Sanai added: “I was among those who left our big-paying jobs in towns like Miri, Bintulu and Sibu to return in the belief that the plant was our chance to work near home and still earn decent pay.

“I must say that Press Metal Mukah is the biggest disappointment in my working life,” he said, adding that his friends had already left the village for jobs elsewhere.

Another complainant, Ngumbang Tuba of Rumah Rawin, about 10km from Rumah Bansan, said the company should give priority to folk living near the plant when it came to hiring workers.

“They have not only failed to fulfil their promise to give our people jobs, but the pollution from the smelter is affecting our plants and trees,” Ngumbang said.

He claimed that their crops and fruit trees had not been able to bear fruit for some years while the rain water tasted bitter.

“This is something that never happened before the plant’s arrival,” Ngumbang said, adding that the least the authorities could do was to connect the longhouses to the water mains serving the plant so that they did not have to depend on rain water or dirty river water.

When contacted by phone yesterday, Press Metal group human resources manager Soh Siew Wong described the villagers grouses as “the usual allegations often thrown at us”.

Some who turned up for the interviews had bad employment records and attitudes, and demanded salaries that did not commensurate with their qualifications and working experience.

Nonetheless, he said that those who had been rejected but still interested in working in hot and humid conditions and on shift basis could submit their resumes.

Soh said, despite the difficulties in hiring locals, the company gave priority to them as it was the hiring policy.

“Come to our office, contact our representatives and government agencies such Jabatan Tenaga Rakyat. We have hundreds of vacancies to fill immediately,” Soh said.

The plant had vacancies for various jobs to beef up its workforce of 800 employees.

Those interested can call the Press Metal human resources assistant manager Jovelynna Chung at 016-886 6921 or recruitment executive Raymond Lau at 016-886 6939.

This story was also published by the Star Sarawak Edition printed version today.