Frustration building up over lack of foreign workers

Employers say manpower supply has been affected by the lack of reforms in the foreign labour sector.

PETALING JAYA: A proposal presented to Putrajaya’s top advisers on the recruitment of foreign workers more than a year ago would have helped solve the labour shortage currently faced by businesses, says an industry source.

Speaking to FMT, the source said employers had been hoping that the Pakatan Harapan government would clean up the “mess” in the recruitment system of foreign workers, which has been plagued by allegations of corruption and power abuse.

The source said a proposal sent to the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), the body appointed to advise Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on policy reforms under the new government, appears to have been unheeded.

“The Special Committee on Foreign Workers had submitted their report to the CEP and in it proposed a single end-to-end online system as it would speed up the process, eliminate room for corruption and keep costs down,” it said.

Under the existing system, there are four processes foreign workers needed to go through in their countries: biometric checking, health screening, receiving and handling of a worker’s passport for calling visa, and system and data entry for calling visa.

The problem with this, the source said, was that there were too many “hands in the pie”.

“The home ministry has too much say in the decision-making, including in the selection of service providers for the different processes,” he said.

He said the committee had proposed that these powers be placed in the hands of a multi-ministerial committee headed by the human resources ministry.

“The single end-to-end system they proposed must also be able to provide a link between Malaysian employers and source countries. This will do away with the need for face-to-face contact and huge bundles of paperwork.”

A single end-to-end system would cut out middlemen, particularly unauthorised agents and reduce issues of abuse, corruption and trafficking of migrants, the source said.

FMT has contacted Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his deputy for a response.

When contacted, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said if the committee’s recommendations were implemented, the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS) which is already widely used and readily available is a viable platform.

“It will definitely prevent corruption where under-table payments are solicited for quick approvals through touts, especially for those who do not qualify for the workers or the number requested,” said MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon.

He said FWCMS is linked to the Registrar of Companies and if adapted, would enable foreign worker agencies in source countries to determine if a company requesting for manpower in Malaysia is legitimate and meets the necessary requirements.

Meanwhile, the source said that recruitment firms in source countries had “no issues” with FWCMS, which charged workers RM100 for biometrics and the other services.

“They see that as a normal procedure. The real issue is the additional processes which cost the workers an extra over RM300. It is these charges which are actually causing a dispute that’s holding up the intake of foreign workers from Nepal and Bangladesh.”

In the meantime, it is businesses, particularly those in the construction and security sector which are struggling.

Master Builders Association of Malaysia (MBAM) president Foo Chek Lee wants the government to use whatever systems are available to overcome the shortage.

With the more than 200 infrastructure projects set to begin nationwide, the supply of manpower is critically urgent.

“We don’t know what system is best but a single and existing system which can be used effectively and safely to bring in the workers should be implemented immediately.

“The bottom line is it will be cheaper for the workers and won’t put them at the mercy of the authorities and agents at both ends. Nobody can come into the country without a job,” he said.