MP calls for coherent policy on foreign workers

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PETALING JAYA: Certain people in the Home Ministry may be profiting from the lack of a proper policy on migrant workers, says Klang MP Charles Santiago.

Commenting on a complaint by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) that companies were violating the freeze on the employment of foreign workers, Santiago said he suspected that there were “elements within the ministry” who were taking advantage of the “chaotic situation” to “make a fast buck”.

“This ridiculous situation exists because there is no coherent policy on migrant workers,” he told FMT.

A news report yesterday quoted MEF Executive Director Shamsuddin Bardan as saying that the freeze on foreign workers announced last February had done nothing to stop some companies from bringing them in.

Shamsuddin lamented what he said were conflicting statements that had been coming from the government since February.

On May 12, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told the press that the Cabinet was lifting the freeze for the manufacturing, plantation, construction and furniture sectors.

Soon after that, however, former Immigration Director-General Sakib Kusmi was quoted as saying that the easing up would begin only after June 30, when the government would have concluded a five-month programme to legalise illegal foreign workers.

Then, in an apparent about turn, on June 1, the Home Ministry announced that it would not lift the ban until it was convinced that employers had stopped using agents and were taking full responsibility for their workers’ welfare.

Santiago said the sending out of different messages from different ministers and agencies was causing confusion among employers.

“The hiring of foreign workers comes under the Home Ministry’s purview,” he said. “It is responsible for issuing permits for foreign workers as well as granting extensions for existing permits. So, if there is some kind of conflict, it’s the fault of the Home Minister, and it is unclear why the Minister of Transport issued a statement on migrant workers.”

Referring to the shortage of workers in the four sectors mentioned by Liow, Santiago called on the government to push employers to hire Malaysians on acceptable terms, including giving them “decent wages”.