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: It is not possible to hire skilled foreign workers for now because Malaysia has not recognised skills certificates from source countries for such workers.
Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said this in response to a statement by Deputy Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Abd Muttalib on Friday advising employers to hire trained and skilled registered foreign workers to prevent the risk of accidents at the workplace.
Ismail had attributed untrained and inexperienced foreign workers as the reason for most accidents on the job.
“If the deputy minister expects employers to hire skilled foreign workers, that would not happen as there is no such thing as skilled workers for these groups,” Shamsuddin said.
“Even at the Asean level, the proposed Asean Recognised Qualification Framework (ARQF) is still a work in progress. It may take years to be finalised.”
He said that presently, employers had to train foreign workers to reduce accidents at the workplace.
“When accidents happen, most employers, especially those in the construction industry, could be slapped with a stop-work order by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH),” he said.
“This means a lot of losses for the company, so it doesn’t pay to ignore safety and health.”
DOSH’s statistics for the first half of the year revealed that the construction industry had the highest number of deaths at work – 31 – and four permanent disability cases.
This was followed by manufacturing, with 17 deaths and 51 permanent disabilities.
“In the construction industry, training is carried out by the Construction Industry Development Board, and workers need green cards, but many illegal workers don’t go through this,” Shamsuddin said.
“The government should enforce the law on illegal workers and be more proactive to ensure it sends the right message so that they (foreign workers) would not dare to work illegally.”
Malaysian Trades Union Congress secretary-general N. Gopal Kishnam agreed the number of undocumented migrant workers was substantial.
“Whenever there are accidents, we doubt all cases are reported, especially for undocumented workers,” he said. Gopal said accidents may not be entirely because workers were unskilled but also because of their long working hours.
“The law only allows them to work for eight hours but most work more than 12, which is dangerous for manual workers,” he said.
“Also, some subcontractors work on a small margin and to reduce costs, they do away with providing personal protective equipment for construction workers.”
Both Gopal and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye felt employers should change their attitude about health and safety.
Lee said poor supervision by safety officers could contribute to accidents at construction sites.
“Accidents in the construction industry almost always involve Indonesian or Bangladeshi workers,” he said.
“Employers need to invest more in safety while the government should look beyond the green card requirements and strengthen related policies.”
Source: Daily Express
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