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: Offering temporary work passes to illegal immigrants in Malaysia will send the wrong message to employees and employers, says Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MUTC) president Abdul Halim Mansor.
“It is already a crime to enter the country illegally. Why are we giving temporary passes to illegals? This is totally wrong,” he told FMT today.
Halim was responding to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s statement that the government would issue temporary work passes to illegal migrant workers in the country.
Employers would not have to pay employment benefits such as Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and social security contributions for migrant workers under the temporary work pass.
Halim is concerned that this will cause employers to prefer migrant workers to Malaysian workers.
“Local workers will cost 15% more to hire. They will be discriminated against because employers will feel it is cheaper to hire undocumented workers.”
Halim said temporary work passes could also be abused by illegal immigrants.
“These people will be first arrested by the authorities but after one year, they are eligible for the temporary work passes.
“These workers will then bring their family members from abroad into the country.”
Tenaganita co-director Aegile Fernandez echoed Halim’s concerns, saying the government must be clear and transparent on the terms and conditions of the temporary pass.
“This is important because NGOs like us will pass on this information to migrant workers.
“Workers are at risk because agents often take this opportunity to extort them.
“It would be great if the government could engage relevant stakeholders, including NGOs, for a discussion on the matter.”
But, Aegile said, temporary work passes would not solve the problem of illegal migrant workers.
Instead, she said, a transparent system of legalising all undocumented workers without the interference of middlemen (agents) would solve the problem in the long run.
At the same time, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Shamsuddin Bardan welcomed the government’s announcement, saying it could perhaps be a temporary remedy for the labour shortage.
“But I would say that in the long term, we require a clearer and firmer policy so that employers can plan their business.”
Shamsuddin said the government should engage in discussion with the stakeholders, employers and employees so that the issue of labour shortage would not arise again.
“Labour shortage has negatively impacted businesses and we really want the employment of foreign workers to be based on human resource needs.”
At present, there are at least 2.14 million documented workers from 13 countries.
The Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) has said there are two illegal migrant workers for every legal migrant worker in the country.
This would put the number of undocumented workers in Malaysia to be at least four million.
But Human Resources Minister Richard Riot Jaem said only three out of 10 foreign workers were now illegal with the government’s rehiring and resettlement of illegal immigrants programme introduced last year.
Address: Wisma MTUC,10-5, Jalan USJ 9/5T, 47620 Subang Jaya,Selangor | Tel: 03-80242953 | Fax: 03-80243225 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org