KUALA LUMPUR: Major development projects are a boon for the construction industry, but the need for more foreign workers continues to be a snag.
The Master Builders Association Malaysia says it is having problems committing to projects in the pipeline, no thanks to the long time it takes to get foreign workers registered.
“It’s not like we haven’t faced manpower shortages before, but it is more serious now considering the surge in new projects we are getting. We are dependent on foreign labour to get jobs done,” association president Matthew Tee (pic) said in an interview yesterday.
He added that the problem is compounded as many Malaysians refuse to take up jobs that they deem menial, leaving the industry with no choice but to turn to foreign labour.
“With the increase in projects, we have had to caution the Government that not all major projects can be handled at the same time.
“It is also important to maintain pace so there is no decline in the industry when the current projects are completed,” said Tee.
He said recruitment of foreign workers for the construction industry began with the Labour Department in the Human Resources Ministry, and later involved the Home Affairs Ministry, the Immigration Department and the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB).
The entire process of recruitment can take up to eight months.
Tee said this lengthy period caused delays in getting enough workers to complete ongoing projects which had a tight completion schedule (under two years).
“Because of this, sometimes contractors are forced to pass up a good new project or tender,” he added.
He said the association planned to meet the Immigration Department to raise its concerns.
He urged the Government to consider extending permits for workers under the 6P programme after three years of renewal, as they would have been skilled enough to support the industry by then.
“We also hope to have an allocation to train new foreign workers, as presently we only have an allocation to train locals.
“But even locals do not want to do work such as brick laying.
“So we still need to train foreigners,” he added.