PETALING JAYA: The increase in foreign workers’ levy is welcome, but only if it is the employers who are paying it, Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general N Gopal Krishnam said.
Speaking to FMT, Gopal said it was unfair for employees to be asked to pay the levy as, rightfully, it is the employer who should pay the levy.
The foreign workers’ levy was introduced by the government in 1992 because of the expenses incurred by the government in providing general facilities such as clinics, roads and other public facilities enjoyed by the rest of Malaysian citizens.
“Until 2012, employers paid the levy but the government changed the ruling due to the introduction of the minimum wage policy, but this is not right.”
Gopal said that the government should change its policy of employees paying for the levy now rather than in two years’ time, as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
“The main issue is that employers are not being fair to both local and foreign workers. They focus too much on profits.
“It is not that locals will not do the difficult, dirty and dangerous (3D jobs) but they are not being paid enough to do so.”
Gopal said proof of this was in Singapore, where many Malaysians carried out 3D jobs on a daily basis, spending hours in traffic, commuting to and fro.
He said despite all the hassle, many Malaysians opted for 3D jobs there because it was worth it, noting that aside from the salary, the working environment and security aspects of the job were also better.
He explained that in Malaysia, businesses preferred foreign workers as there was an oversupply of foreign labour. Their salaries, while in tandem or higher than the minimum wage, were lower than the market rate for local employees.
Gopal said he expected the higher foreign worker levy to result in greater demand for local workers. Foreign workers would suffer more as they would have to fork out a substantial amount just to come here and work.
On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced the increase in the levy, beginning February 1, which would see Putrajaya earning around RM2.6 billion in revenue. Many in the business community have opposed the move.