MEF: Underline prospects to attract locals into FGVH

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN

Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd’s (FGVH) move to employ locals in the plantation industry must be backed by enticing prospects and incentives.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) ED Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said while the initiative is welcomed, the recruitment drive is expected to face challenges due to the general lacklustre view towards the plantation segment.

“This is a good move but the main obstacle will be to get locals into the industry. The reason for this is not due to income, but more on the social status of the work itself.

“Despite the remuneration package given — RM3,000 allowance, free electricity, good healthcare for family members and early education — people still look down on plantation work,” Shamsuddin told The Malaysian Reserve.

Recent crackdowns on foreign workers are pushing local firms to consider alternatives in domestic labour. Many players across various labour-intensive sectors have expressed their qualms on shortage of labour, in addition to rising costs and stricter requirements in employing foreign employees.

Last Thursday, FGVH officer-in-charge Datuk Khairil Anuar Aziz admitted that the plantation giant is still in need of more workers to ensure its daily operations run smoothly.

Khairil said although it will be a challenge to amend the new generation’s negative perception towards a career in the plantation sector, FGVH is committed to encourage and give priority to locals through the company’s recruitment scheme.

MEF’s Shamsuddin said despite the tough sentiment, hiring local workers is needed to reduce the country’s dependency on foreign labour.

“We cannot depend too much on foreign labour. This is a hard transition that we need to do and a lot of prospects in the plantation sector need to be highlighted. We would also need to introduce more mechanisation into the industry, so that it creates high-skilled jobs,” he said.

The labour force in the plantation industry currently comprises 80% foreign workers and 20% locals.

FGVH alone employs over 35,000 foreign employees nationwide. The latest government data available showed that there are over 490,000 workers in the agriculture sector.

The Home Ministry recently revealed that there were 1.8 million foreign workers in Malaysia as of June 30, with the majority consisting of Indonesians (40.6%), Nepalis (22.2%) and Bangladeshis (11.1%).

National Felda Settlers’ Children Association (Anak) president Mazlan Aliman applauded FGVH’s effort to take on more locals as the company’s dependency on foreign workers, especially Indonesians, has been felt over the last 30 years.

“Campaigns and efforts to attract locals must take into account the incentives offered. Anak has received several complaints, particularly from children of Felda settlers who have allegedly received low wages and incentives that do not interest them.

“It is unfair to equate them with foreign workers due to the high cost of living,” Mazlan said in a statement.

He further recommended the introduction of a new policy, which would guarantee that stockholder and housing incentives remain in place so that the settlers’ future is secured.

“Otherwise, no matter what incentives are offered, local workers will simply be day labourers,” Mazlan said.