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FMM: 84% of manufacturers face manpower shortage

PETALING JAYA: Factory owner Datuk Syed Mohammed Izhaar Mohammed Sebirm needs 125 foreign workers to meet the demand of his textile factory, but has so far only managed to get 20.

With that small number of workers in hand, he has not been able to go on round-the-clock full production, leaving his machines idle.

The Rawang-based businessman is now having sleepless nights, worrying about a huge loss of revenue if he continues to operate with only about 15% of his required workforce.

Syed Mohammed Izhaar’s company is one of the many facing acute shortage of workers following the blanket ban on new foreign workers announced by the Government two months ago.

Both employers and industry players are urgently pleading with the Government to reconsider its decision, complaining that the freeze was crippling their businesses.

A survey by the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) showed that 84% of manufacturers are facing manpower shortage, with half of them reporting that they have not been able to fulfil existing orders.

“This situation, if allowed to continue, will affect our economy which is already under great pressure from reduced domestic and global demand.

“We, therefore, request the Government to review its current policy in order to help our local manufacturers,” FMM said in a statement yesterday.

Labour demand: Foreign workers sewing clothes at a textile factory in Rawang.
Labour demand: Foreign workers sewing clothes at a textile factory in Rawang.

FMM said costs had also increased for manufacturers as some have to run on overtime or even outsource parts of their operations.

From the survey, the federation said, 146 companies indicated that they require 13,270 new workers this year to meet their business needs and replace unfit or returning workers.

The companies said they were in this predicament because local workers have not been able to meet the demands of the industries, thus their continued reliance on foreign workers.

“While some companies are still able to bring in a portion of their requirements with approvals from the Home Ministry in hand or calling visas already issued for new workers prior to the freeze, more than half are left with no options of bringing in new workers.

“Those with check-out memos for returning workers are also not able to replace them during this period,” FMM said.

The federation also said most manufacturers were unable to utilise the rehiring programme by the Home Ministry as they do not have illegal workers in their employment.

The survey, said FMM, also indicated that only 35% of the respondents see automation as a solution to their manpower problems while the rest had either already automated or have cited the high investment cost and limited scope of labour savings from automating their processes.

The suspension on the intake of new foreign workers was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in February.

The Immigration Department is also currently carrying out an illegal immigrant rehiring programme to enable those working illegally to get valid permits and for employers to meet labour demands. The programme ends in June.

On Monday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said many industries were suffering from a severe lack of manpower and were appealing to the Government to review the freeze on new foreign labour.

Dr Wee said he had been gathering information from many groups, including furniture makers and those in the export-oriented industries, which desperately needed workers.

He added he would raise the matter with Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister.

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