Malaysia is one of Asia's biggest employers of foreign labour. But recently, cases of deaths, abuse and forced labour have come to light. What is going on? Who is protecting these migrant workers?
PETALING JAYA: Indian and mamak restaurants must offer better wages and improve working conditions if they want to attract local employees, says the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).
MTUC Secretary-General N Gopal Krishnam told FMT the problem was not that locals did not want to work at such jobs, but that the wages and working conditions were not appealing.
He was commenting on MIC President S Subramaniam’s recent revelation that many Indian restaurants were closing down due to a shortage of workers, brought about by the freeze on foreign labour.
Gopal said Subramaniam should go quietly to such restaurants and ask the workers about their wages and working conditions, including the number of hours they worked.
He claimed that many workers had told MTUC that they received cruel treatment from restaurant owners when they complained about their wages or expressed their intention to resign.
“When these restaurants go and complain over the foreign worker freeze, the government should tell them to buck up and improve wages and working conditions,” he said.
“How come other types of eateries, such as fast food joints, cafes and other restaurants do not have labour problems of this scale? How come they can attract local workers?”
PSM Central Committee Member S Arutchelvan gave a similar comment, pointing out that many workers at Indian and mamak restaurants worked 12 hours a day.
“It is easy to exploit migrant workers,” he said.
He agreed with Gopal that the restaurants could attract local workers if they offered better wages, fairer working hours and better benefits.
News reports recently quoted Subramaniam as saying that Indian restaurants were facing a shortage of workers and that he would seek a solution through the Cabinet. But he advised the restaurants to reduce their reliance on foreign workers.
Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) President Noorul Hassan Saul Hameed said recently that some 200 mamak restaurants had closed down due to the freeze on foreign workers.
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