Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sarawak MTUC wants RCI on foreign workers issue

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress today called for a Royal Commission Of Inquiry (RCI) to be set up to look into Putrajaya's decision to bring 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers into Malaysia over the next three years. Its Sarawak division secretary Andrew Lo said the commission should be set up to get to the bottom of the issue, which was a multi-billion ringgit business. He said the move to bring in the Bangladeshis was not consistent with the government's decision to put the levy hike on foreign labour on hold. He said the levy hike would only be good for the long-term interests of industries and the country, compelling industries to automate and modernise their operations instead on relying on foreign workers. "Employers and businesses complain that the timing of the increase is not quite right because of the current economic slowdown. MTUC believes that if indeed there is an economic slowdown, companies should be down-sizing and reducing their foreign workers so any increase will have less impact. "Yet at the same time, we decide to bring in another 1.5 million workers. That is more than 10% of the workforce. In total, more than 20% of our workforce are foreign workers," he said in a statement today. Lo said there were two to four million illegal foreign workers in the country, outnumbering legal ones despite the many raids conducted by the authorities. He said out of a workforce of 11 million, foreigners already took one job out of every five. He asked whether there would be so many jobs to fill if the economy was truly down. Lo also disagreed that foreigners were needed to do "dirty, dangerous and difficult" (3D) jobs in which Malaysians were uninterested. "How is it that one in every five jobs is a 3D job, four years before we become a developed nation? We can just visit shopping centres in Kuala Lumpur and major towns to see that most of the retail shops' assistants and sales associates are foreigners. These are not 3D jobs. "We can see them everywhere, including at Plaza Low Yat, a popular IT shopping mall right in the shopping district in Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur." Lo said employers preferred to hire foreigners for non-3D jobs because Malaysians supposedly had bad attitudes and were lazy and choosy workers, who demanded high salaries but did not show up for work by taking sick leave. "It is likely that employers prefer foreign workers because they are easier to control and exploit. Some employers place a large number of these workers in harsh and dirty living conditions and this has led to tensions rising and workers' unrest. "The end result is that wages in the country are severely depressed until it only contributes to 32% of the GDP. Malaysian employers are vehemently opposed to minimum wage review. "How did we get to this sorry state of affairs? Is it because licences for labour contractors and employment agents have been issued with impunity? "Is the Immigration Department not carrying out their responsibility of protecting our entry points?" Lo also said the system in which the government granted licences with impunity to selected outsourcing companies to import labour and farm them out to end-users did not gel with talks of reducing foreign worker dependency. He said it was worse than bonded labour and must be stopped immediately. "This outsourcing to selected people means that they can start to charge exorbitant prices. "Most small-time business owners, who are unable to afford the costly overheads, would rather engage in the employment of illegal workers. "MTUC calls for a RCI to get to the bottom of the foreign workers issue, which is a multi billion-dollar industry." – February 16, 2016.]]>

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