Immigration crackdown hits petrol station owners

Dealers say they need more time to replace illegal workers who have been sent back

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By TMR

The number of foreign pump attendants in the country has been cut in half as operators cope with increased enforcement on illegal aliens.

The new government’s hardline stance on illegal immigrants has hit several industries that rely heavily on foreign labour, but none more visible than in fuel retail.

Petrol Dealers Association of Malaysia president Datuk Khairul Annuar Abdul Aziz said the new administration’s campaign against illegal hiring has affected many dealers in urban areas, where foreign workers make up 40% of employees.

“The affected stations have to reduce their foreign workers by two to five people. In fact, the numbers could be more than that at NGV (natural gas vehicle) stations as these are full service facilities.

“Most of the affected workers would have to be sent back to their home countries,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Khairul Annuar said stricter immigration enforcement has impacted petrol station owners who said they need more time to replace workers who have been sent back with properly documented replacements.

“We are forced to send back workers without having ample time to get replacements.

“We could have worked something out if they (the authorities) had given us six to seven months.”

Khairul Annuar said as a stopgap measure, petrol station owners are trying to hire locals but this is difficult in urban areas.

“People would rather work at McDonald’s where the premises are fully air-conditioned than working at petrol stations,” Khairul Annuar said.

He said due to the shortage of workers, petrol stations will likely operate shorter hours — typically cutting down from 24-hour operations to just 18 hours per day, which will impact revenue.

Petrol station operator Kamaruddin Atan said the immigration action caught out many in the business who are required to provide full service, which means the need for more workers compared to selfservice stations.

“It has to be set out clearly whether petrol stations should be self service or full service.

“If we are required to provide full service, then the government must be supportive of this through its policies,” said Kamaruddin, who operates a station in the Klang Valley with two foreign workers.

The government’s crackdown on illegal immigrants came into effect on Aug 31, at the end of an amnesty period to encourage illegal foreign workers to pay a fine and get a passage to their home countries.

Government statistics showed nearly two million registered migrant workers in Malaysia, with an additional one million said to be working without permits. Many are employed in the construction and plantation segments, while others serve as security guards or cleaners.

Manufacturers and business owners have complained about the uncertain and varying policies over foreign workers.