Wednesday, March 11, 2009

ISSUE: Foreign workers

Mac 10 2009

While those in the construction and food sectors are for foreign workers, the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) and a deputy minister are against bringing in more of them, given the current economic conditions.

Master Builders Association of Malaysia president Ng Kee Leen said foreign workers would be needed in the construction industry until a time came when locals were able to replace them.

He said 95% of the workers in the construction industry in the Klang Valley were foreign workers.

“Even when the industry had negative growth in 2006, it employed about 300,000 foreign workers. If you put a stop to foreign workers, then the industry will also stop.

“How fast our economy recovers also depends on how fast the Government is able to stimulate the construction industry,” Ng said yesterday when commenting on the 70,000 Bangladeshis set to be brought here to work in the plantation, construction and service sectors.

Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk R. Ramalingam Pillai said it was difficult for restaurant owners to hire locals because of the work’s low social status.

This was despite a minimum wage of about RM800 to RM1,200, including lodging, transportation and food, he said.

“They call it a 3D job — dirty, demeaning and dangerous. Even restaurant owners’ children don’t want to work for their parents,” he told The Star yesterday.

At least 37 Indian restaurants were forced to close this year because they could not find enough workers.

According to Ramalingam, the Bangladeshis were not for the association’s 1,570 members.

“As far as we know, we are only allowed to hire foreign cooks,” he said.

Muslim Restaurant Operators Association (Presma) president Jamarulkhan Kadir also said restaurant jobs were “the least preferred among locals”.

He added that the 70,000 Bangladeshis would not be suitable for the business because of the language barrier.

“We usually hire workers from India or Indonesia because they can speak English, Tamil or Malay,” he said.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk S.K. Devamany said there was a need for a fundamental policy change in the laws to bring in foreign workers.

“The number of foreign workers needs to be reduced. We can’t aggravate the situation by bringing in more of them when locals are at risk of losing their jobs,” he said.

He said, however, there should be some form of compensation for the foreigners, who had already paid between RM9,000 and RM10,000 for visas and levy.