Unfair to say all local workers poor in English, says MTUC

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PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said it is unfair for companies to generalise that local workers have a poor command of English and, therefore, not give them priority for jobs.

Its secretary-general J Solomon said this would be an injustice.

“It is undeniable that the standard of English among Malaysian workers has dropped compared to 30 years ago.

“But for the MEF (Malaysian Employers Federation) to say that local workers are worse English speakers compared with Myanmar and Philippine workers is unfair, and it is demoralising for locals,” he said.

On Sunday, the MEF said many companies were hiring foreigners who spoke English for jobs in the sales and services sectors as the locals could not speak English well.

“Even for simple sales jobs, we depend on people from Myanmar and the Philippines to fill the void.

“We are constantly facing problems to fill positions requiring locals to speak and write in English. This is not good for us,” said MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan.

Shamsuddin added that locals should enrol themselves for English classes to improve their communication skills.

Solomon said instead of complaining that local workers could not speak well, the bosses should provide training and classes to improve English proficiency among their workers.

“They have a responsibility towards their employees. How can workers progress if they do not learn?” he asked.

Solomon said what Prime Minister Najib Razak had said in his Labour Day speech yesterday was what the trade group had been emphasising all this while.

“Foreign workers are just to complement local workers, and should not be brought in to replace the locals,” Solomon added.

Yesterday, Najib told companies to give priority to local workers to fill job vacancies.

“Do give a chance to Malaysian workers, if possible. Don’t just offer jobs to foreigners. Give priority to the local workers,” he was reported as saying by Bernama.