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S’pore shuns workers from Sabah, Sarawak

 | August 24, 2011

Misbehaving Sabahans and Sarawakians irk strict Singapore government.

SINGAPORE: Employers in Singapore are shunning unskilled Sabahans and Sarawakians applying for work in the city-state mainly because they are causing problems in the republic.

Unrestrained drinking, frequent fightings in public places and other activities have been cited as the reason for the downturn in demand for workers from these two states.

While there are no official announcements or rules, rumours are rife here that employers cannot employ workers from the two Borneo states.

It is understood that preference is being given to others for jobs in shopping malls, restaurants or any service-based businesses here.

This has not always been the case.

Just two years ago, employment agents in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching were doing a brisk business recruiting and sending Sabahans and Sarawakians, some as young as 16, to work in Singapore.

An employer here, who hired Sabahans, told FMT that it was now more difficult to get work permits for fresh young Sabahans to work in many of the service sectors in Singapore.

“Three years ago we could. Now it is more difficult.

“In fact, in some cases only those aged above 35 get in or those who already have a good work record here manage to have their permits renewed to continue working,” said the employer who preferred to be known as Tan.

Tan said he did not know the reason why Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) was making it more difficult to obtain permits for workers from Sabah and Sarawak.

Strict immigration laws

But it is common konowledge here that some workers in the affected sectors are known for their heavy drinking, fighting, indiscipline and even involvement in drugs.

The republic, which has strict immigration laws, has already adopted alternative measures to mitigate the shortage of workers in various sectors.

Workers from Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea and Taiwan as well as India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Philippines and China are now being welcomed into the state.

From June this year, in order to ensure potential workers understand the regulations, Work Permit In-Principle Approval (IPA) letters for foreign workers must be printed in the workers’ native language.

It is part of an ongoing government effort to make its communications to employers and their foreign workers clearer and more transparent, MOM said in its website.

It is not known how many Sabahans and Sarawakians are currently working in Singapore, but industry sources said they could be in the hundreds, if not thousands.

Lester Gualan, a Sabahan, who worked in a restaurant in Singapore for awhile, told FMT he was keen to go back but he could not get a work permit.

“I was told by my friends that only those Sabahans above 35 years are able to get permits now,” he said.

A quick look around here found many Sabahans and Sarawakians, young and old, loitering around City Plaza, their favourite rendezvous over weekends.

They were also seen loitering ear the red district of Geylang, well known for its night life.

In the past, some Sabahans and Sarawakians have complained that their Singapore employers were working with recruiting agencies in the two states to exploit them and that the employers and agents rarely fulfilled their contractual obligations to the workers.


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