Local barbers don’t turn up for work, say owners on why they like foreign staff

Some hardworking foreign barbers can earn up to RM4,000 a month, says a shop owner.

KUALA LUMPUR: Business owners have criticised Putrajaya’s decision to proceed with banning foreigners from being hired as laundrymen, textile shop assistants, barbers and goldsmiths, saying it will negatively affect their business.

The ban, which will affect these sub-sectors, was announced by the home ministry and human resources ministry, which said this was necessary to prioritise the employment of locals and to focus on more economically-stimulating areas.

Kumaran Gunasegaran, who owns a few barbershops in Brickfields, strongly condemned the move, saying that once this ruling comes into full effect, he might be forced to close down at least one of his shops.

He agreed with Putrajaya’s intention of increasing job opportunities for locals, but told FMT these were not the kind of jobs locals wanted.

When asked why this was so, he cited the lack of commitment among local workers, adding that in a week some local workers may take three days off.

“One day they show up for work and the next, they just don’t show up. This is the service sector … how can they work like that?”

Kumaran ruled out the notion that people did not want these jobs due to low wages, saying that some of his foreign workers managed to earn more than RM4,000 last month.

He said he preferred foreign workers because they worked hard and did not mind the long hours, adding that four local barbers had quit their jobs after only a week.

“We just want to run our business. Look at my records and you’ll see that I have fulfilled the demands for the permits, the income tax and so on,” he said.

“But if the government really bans foreign workers, I might have to close this shop by the end of this month.”

Sasitharan Sundram.

Sasitharan Sundram, the manager of Gold Palace along Jalan Masjid India, said locals have unrealistic job expectations and demands, adding that foreigners do not mind working on public holidays while locals do not want to do so.

He told FMT that foreigners tend to better abide by the rules of the company compared to locals.

“Foreigners are more efficient, productive and committed. As a businessperson, I’m looking at less cost and more productivity.”

He urged Putrajaya to come up with a better solution, suggesting a quota for local and foreign workers so that locals have job opportunities while foreigners can still work here.

The owner of several jewellery and textile shops, who requested to remain anonymous, also disagreed with the ban as they specialise in producing Indian customary jewellery, which requires them to hire goldsmiths from India.

“For example, we produce the thaali, which is a locket specifically for Indian wedding ceremonies, and which only Indian goldsmiths are able to produce.”

He said in the long run, prices will go up and consumers will end up being badly hit by the ban as businesses will have to outsource the work to a goldsmith in India, increasing the cost involved.

“We’re not even asking for a big number of foreign workers. We’re only asking for 800 workers for the whole industry,” he added.

Nijeesh P, the deputy branch head of Malabar Gold and Diamonds on Jalan Masjid India, told FMT the ban will also affect retailers as there will be a lack of local supply, making it harder for them to source for products.

He agreed with the government’s aim to increase the number of skilled workers in the country, but added that they have to first ensure that proper training is available.

Malaysian Indian Goldsmith Jewellers Association (Migja) president Abdul Rasul called on the government to be more empathetic to business owners’ problems.

He said locals had been working as goldsmiths all the while, making up 40-50% of the workforce.

However, he added, they usually left in less than a year to start their own jewellery business, leading to an increase in the number of shops and a decrease in workers.

“Our industry is not the same as the others. The investment and the revenue is very big, but the profit margin is small,” he said.

Abdul said the association will be meeting the Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and other sub-sector leaders to discuss the issue before meeting Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran to voice their problems.

“We have put a lot of hope in the ministers and the new government to create a good business environment for us,” said Abdul.