GEORGE TOWN: A car wash owner, who used to employ mostly migrant workers at his 25 outlets nationwide, has now transitioned his workforce to one consisting entirely of prison inmates who are out on early release.
K Suraindran said his Butterworth-based company decided in 2019 to offer the jobs to those inmates out on early release when the cost of hiring migrant workers became too expensive. He said this move had saved him more than RM200,000 in levies.
“When we look at the total cost, including the levy and other expenses, hiring migrant workers is expensive. It is not worth it. Earlier on, we hired two parolees. Now, we have more than 250 early-release prisoners working for the company.
“I no longer have migrant workers. We have the satisfaction of hiring early-release prisoners to give them a second chance at life,” he told FMT.
Suraindran said the workers were paid a minimum wage and overtime, as well as given a place to live and meals, in accordance with an agreement with the prisons department.
He said the workers usually had three to four months to complete their sentences. During that period, his company would train the early release prisoners in car detailing (waxing and polishing), setting up mobile car wash units and regular car washing techniques.
Suraindran said about half of the early release prisoners he hired would continue working for him after serving their sentences while others would leave for greener pastures.
He said only one prisoner had absconded over the past four years, out of more than 200 that he hired.
“There are rarely any issues with them — they are willing to work,” he added.
“Zulkifli”, 47, was a security guard until he was convicted of taking drugs and sentenced to 16 months in prison. With one more month to his release, he was happy to be part of the programme.
“I have been ordered to work for two months, which is good for me. With this, at least I can make a living,” he said.
Former hotel chef “Ooi”, 40, was also jailed for drug use. He hopes to reunite with his 21-year-old son.
“This job will be a new experience for me,” he added.
Earlier, Penang prisons chief Jusoh Ismail released 16 prisoners, aged 30 to 60, as part of a programme under the department.
He said four of the early-release prisoners would spend the rest of their sentences with their families, while 12 others would be handed over to various employers.
Jusoh said the prisoners were released early due to their good behaviour and after having met conditions set by the prisons commissioner-general. However, he was unable to reveal these conditions.
Last September, the government revealed that it saved RM270 million through various programmes under the prisons department.