Thursday, February 5, 2015

MTUC concerned over recruitment of Bangladeshi workers

Posted on February 5, 2015, Thursday

KUCHING: The state government’s plan to bring in 12,000 Bangladeshi workers for the state’s plantation sector has been met with great concern by the Malaysian Trade Unions Congress (MTUC).

Though the union recognised the country’s need for foreign workers as part of the global economy, MTUC Sarawak secretary Andrew Lo said the six million foreign workers in Malaysia today constituted almost half of the country’s workforce.

“The government’s effort in reducing the reliance on foreign workers has not been successful. Land Development Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut has also stated that they have tried to recruit locals but there are no takers.

“However, we reject claims that local workers refuse to work in plantations because it is a dirty and difficult job,” he said in a press statement yesterday.

According to him, local workers’ hesitance to work in plantations was merely due to employers suppressing wages and imposing miserable as well as demeaning terms and conditions of employment.

“The government has unwittingly allowed this by stifling trade unions that make it extremely difficult for workers to bargain collectively for better wages, which has fallen below productivity growth.”

He pointed out that plantations offered only daily paid jobs with no security of tenure of employment while employers claimed that local workers would only show up for work whenever they please.

“What do you expect when they are only paid daily rates? This is also why there are at least 300,000 locals working in West Malaysia, Singapore and as far as Dubai and Africa because they want better employment opportunities,” he stressed.

Lo also regarded the minimum wage of RM800 as below the poverty line index and disclosed that the average monthly wage for 182,000 out of 258,000 workers in the agriculture and forestry sector was still less than RM700.

“Another reason why employers prefer foreign workers is because they are easier to control since they have no avenue to complain if they are forced to work longer hours with less than satisfactory living conditions.

“We must also not forget the recruitment of foreign workers is a multibillion dollar business for recruitment agents in both the importing and exporting countries.

“At an average fee of RM8,000 per worker, this would amount to RM48 billion with the six million foreign workers available in Malaysia,” he said.

“If this is used to pay salaries and bonus to local workers, I’m sure they are more than willing to take up the job,” he added.

Lo also questioned whether there should be so many labour intensive plantations with huge environmental costs and yet only creating low paying jobs for foreign workers.

“Sarawak has a very low population and we should focus on human resource development to develop high value and creative jobs rather than difficult, dirty, demeaning and dangerous ones.

“MTUC has called for a tripartite council to find holistic and long-term solutions to this problem, which may have grave security implications if not addressed,” he said.

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