MTUC: Home Ministry’s proposal to allow employers to hire illegals under detention is not practical

Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) logo

KUCHING, June 23: Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has today criticised Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin’s proposal to allow employers to hire illegal immigrants under detention as ‘reckless and counter-productive’.

Its secretary-general J.Solomon in a statement today, pointed out that the proposal also contradicted the Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR)’s policies to reduce the growing number of migrant workers in the country and help unemployment among Malaysians.

On Monday, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan announced a freeze on the recruitment of foreign workers until the end of the year in a move to free up jobs for Malaysians and reduce unemployment in the country.

“Overall, MTUC sees this as a positive move that will help to check Malaysia’s over dependency on unskilled migrant labour and open the doors for a comprehensive review on the need to improve salaries and benefits to encourage Malaysians to take over jobs traditionally filled by foreigners,” he said.

Meanwhile, Solomon pointed out that on the same day, Hamzah announced another measure involving migrant labour in which employers may be allowed to recruit illegal migrants held at Immigration Detention Centers.

Hamzah’s rationale was that the move would help reduce the number of illegal migrants in detention, which would in turn help the government save money on their upkeep.

“In proposing to allow employers to hire workers from Immigration Detention Centres, the Home Ministry appears to be working in silos and at odds with MOHR policies to reduce the growing number of migrant workers in the country.

“Hamzah’s proposal also shows that empowering two ministries for jurisdiction and responsibility over foreign workers has continued to result in ambiguous policies and knee jerk measures which fail to stem the influx of illegal foreign workers nor reduce Malaysia’s over dependence on cheap unskilled migrant labour,” he said.

Solomon emphasised that government policies must focus on discouraging millions of foreigners from entering the country illegally to work, therefore reducing the massive outflow of funds from the country’s shores annually and prod employers into offering better terms to hire Malaysians.

“In any case, the Home Ministry proposal is not practical nor fair as any offer to legalise must cover all undocumented workers, not just a select few.

“Every undocumented worker should have the right to be legalised. Otherwise we will be considered as discriminating foreign workers and once again make international headlines for the wrong reasons,” he added.

He stressed that it was better for the government to focus on implementing the MOHR’s proposal to freeze the intake of foreign workers to address local unemployment and reduce the country’s dependence on migrant labour.

“This policy by itself will not be effective if employers are allowed to hire foreigners who have been detained. Instead, attention should be centered on tighter enforcement to stop human trafficking rings to smuggle foreign workers into the country,” he said.

In freezing the recruitment of foreign workers until year-end, he pointed out that the MOHR must do more to compel employers to woo Malaysian workers by offering decent wages and benefits.

“The government obviously has high hope that there will be a rush by locals to take over blue collar jobs from foreigners which would include unskilled positions in the construction, plantation and manufacturing sectors.

“The government must not ignore the elephant in the room in wooing Malaysian workers to take up such jobs. Until and unless MOHR is able to convince employers to improve wages and benefits for these positions, any government campaign to encourage Malaysians to fill jobs traditionally held by migrants will not make much headway,” he added.

MTUC observed, however, that there had not been any noticeable or collective effort on the part of employers to offer better wages and perks to encourage Malaysians to replace migrant workers in blue collar jobs, nor have employers made any collected effort to push for automation which would provide opportunities for Malaysian workers to enhance their skills and command better wages.

“MTUC finds that many employers are reluctant even to offer the minimum wage of RM1,200 to foreign workers to keep their costs low and bottom line healthy. This is an area that the MOHR must tackle earnestly and honestly if it is serious to get locals to take over from migrant workers.

“There has to be a clear political will from the government to push employers into this direction as well as pay fair and decent wages to Malaysians for blue collar jobs.

“The MOHR’s freeze on foreign workers recruitment must be balanced with the need to ensure local workers are given decent wages and benefits. Only by doing so, can the government gradually reduce its over dependence on migrant workers and stem the flow of illegals into our shores,” he said. —DayakDaily