Businesses still struggling with foreign labour shortage

By FARA AISYAH

Manufacturers are not able to push their production capacity at optimum rates, following the introduction of the enforcement card (E-card) which had forced many foreign workers to go back to their homeland.

The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (Margma) president Denis Low Jau Foo said the longer waiting period to acquire approval for the E-card was the main reason for workers to miss the July deadline to get their new work permits.

“This has lowered our productivity level to some extent, and we hope the authorities can really assist us.

“Some of our workers had returned to their countries, and we are not able to replace them that soon,” Low said.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Selangor branch chairman Datuk Soh Thian Lai — who is also the president of Malaysian Iron and Steel Industry Federation — said that since his peers employ legal foreign workers, the setback they are currently facing is not as bad as other sectors including small and medium enterprises, restaurant operators, construction sites and renovation contractors.

However, Soh said the government should also solve illegal foreign workers issue once and for all, as the various industries need to be at the same level and pay the same cost regarding the employment of foreign workers.

He said at the moment, many businesses are resorting to employ illegal workers as they are cheaper to maintain.

Soh also suggested that the government implement and enforce a “One-Stop Foreign Workers Recruitment Centre”, which can also be systemised and operated online.

“At the same time, a commission with power and authorities to control and monitor the total number of foreign workers in Malaysia could also be established.

“The authorities should also remove all third party recruitment agencies because they are the ones causing unfair or corupted practices,” Soh added.

Soh also said the total number of foreign workers in Malaysia should not exceed 20% of the total workforce in the country.

As such, he said the government should have a more holistic approach and practice with a long term plan and solutions for the foreign workers conundrum.

“The most important is that the government should encourage the companies to move towards Industry 4.0, that is less dependent on foreign workers.

“They should emphasise more on skilled local workforce with higher remuneration which will produce higher productivity,” he said.

Since the introduction of the E-card — followed by “Ops Mega” carried out by the Immigration Department in an effort to flush out illegal immigrants in the country last month — more than 3,000 illegal foreign workers had been arrested.

SMD Development Sdn Bhd CEO Datuk Jeffery Tan said it all depends on how one looks at the overall issue.

He claimed that development companies are hardly affected by the foreign workers, as they are mainly engaged by construction companies and contractors to build projects for them.

However, he said there are some cases where the main contractors would pass down different jobs to subcontractors that utilise other smaller, independent units.

“The small sub-constructors sometimes hire illegal foreign workers and if they somehow got arrested, it will definitely slow down the progress and development of certain projects,” Tan added.

Tan also owns a printing company that hires legal foreign workers, and he has been dealing with various labour issues as well.

“Nine months before, they will ask you for Form A. Then after that, they will tell you that you also need to submit Form B.

“Then when you come again, they will ask you for Form C. Why can’t they just ask for Forms A ,B and C at the beginning?” Tan said.

He said there are so many grey areas in the application and approval procedures, which he hopes the authorities can look into and come up with clear guidelines regarding the matter.

“I’d suggest employers start renewing the permits nine months before the current passes expire.

This would avoid any unforeseen circumstance as they’d have enough time to deal with all the requirements,” he added.