PETALING JAYA: Restricting the use of foreign workers to only three sectors amounts to economic suicide, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress said today.
The labour federation’s secretary-general, J Solomon, said: “The reality is that foreign labour is deeply embedded in Malaysia’s economy and confining migrant labourers to work in just three sectors seems to be an act of economic self-immolation by the government.”
He urged the government to reconsider its policies.
Solomon said the government should involve the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) to find solutions to reducing the dependence on migrant labour and to deal with the rising local unemployment rate.
He also said MTUC and the Malaysian Employers Federation were not consulted before the government decided to curtail the use of foreign labour, and the exclusion of the NLAC was a breach of the International Labour Organization’s convention.
Assuming locals would be willing to take up 3D (dangerous, dirty and difficult) jobs on the same terms and conditions as migrant workers was ignorant of the current high cost of living and the revised poverty line by the government, he said.
Noting that more than 800,000 people were listed unemployed in the first five months of this year, Solomon said many Malaysians had remained this way as the government had failed to call employers to offer improved wages and benefits on jobs traditionally held by migrant workers.
Many documented foreign workers were often paid the minimum wage, while perks such as mandatory rest days, overtime or medical benefits were rare and inadequate, he said.
Meanwhile, those without documents and hired illegally fared worse with unethical employers paying them less than RM1,000 monthly, he added.
“The human resources ministry is now forced to address the growing labour crunch faced by employers in key sectors, including small and medium enterprises at a time when they are desperately attempting to recover from the many restrictions that were imposed to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Last week, the ministry clarified that the freeze on new foreign worker hires would remain until the end of the year and they would only be hired to work in the plantation, agricultural and construction sectors.
There are currently more than two million foreign workers registered with the ministry, with 700,000 in the manufacturing sector and 309,000 in the services sector.
Undocumented workers account roughly for another one million in these sectors.