Proper foreign workers policy at eateries needed

Foreign workers are not needed if govt is willing to shift all eateries to self-service concept


LOCAL eateries are willing to operate without employing foreign workers provided that proper policy is put in place by the government that would allow business owners to adapt and incorporate new ideas including self-service concepts.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said foreign workers are employed to provide support services at eateries like taking orders and serving food.

He revealed that foreigners, which constitute about 5% of the 100,000 workers in the food and beverage (F&B) sector, might not have to be employed if Putrajaya is willing to shift all eateries to self-service ceoncept.

While there is a pressing need to provide jobs for locals especially during the economic downturn, Jawahar Ali said eateries would still need two to three years to change their policies.

“It cannot be done overnight,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in a recent interview, in response to Putrajaya’s decision to limit the employment of foreign workers to certain sectors due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Deputy Human Resources Minister Awang Hashim told the Dewan Rakyat on July 29 that foreign workers could only be employed in the construction, agricultural and plantation sectors.

The move was made following the government’s earlier decision to freeze all intake of foreign workers until December to ensure more employment for Malaysians.

However, the move was not well received by industry players.

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers said the freeze would affect manufacturers that are expanding their production to meet the increase in orders.

Meanwhile, the Construction Industry Development Board Malaysia stated that 23% of construction sites inspected by the body are still pending to operate due to labour shortages, which are mainly foreigners.

Jawahar Ali hoped that the government would revise the decision to freeze foreign worker intakes at restaurants, as locals are not very keen on working at eateries especially mamak stalls, despite being offered attractive salaries and benefits.

He added that a swift change of policy is needed for them to “do away” with foreign workers, while business owners should be given time to slowly change their way of doing business.

“Many may not know that taking foreign workers is not as easy as it looks. We must comply with many procedures and satisfy the labour office requirements when they come for checks at our premises.

“Additionally, we can only take foreigners after having proven that the jobs were declined by locals. To have zero foreign workers at eateries now is unreasonable,” Jawahar Ali added.

As it is, he said F&B outlets have been facing difficulties due to the crisis and the government’s decision would come on top of their financial difficulties.

He said some might look at other alternatives, including approaching loan sharks, especially after the automatic moratorium ends in September.

“Our sales were about 20% compared to a normal day, and now it has improved to about 70%. However, it is still lower compared to the pre-Movement Control Order period,” he said.