AS A direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of migrant workers globally have been stranded, either unable to travel to their home countries or return to the countries where they work.
With the closure of international borders and the imposition of national lockdowns, foreign workers in Malaysia’s palm oil sector have also been affected.
Recognising this, Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) has put the welfare of its workers to the forefront and is taking necessary steps to find equitable solutions.
It has been working closely with the authorities to find ways to facilitate and where possible, to expedite the repatriation exercise of its workers.
Since July, SDP has successfully repatriated 1,125 foreign workers from operations all over Malaysia.
These workers are mainly from Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Most recently, SDP successfully sent back 149 of its estate workers to Kolkata, India, on a specially chartered flight.
As Indian borders remain restricted, SDP worked in partnership with various agencies, including Malaysia Airlines, Immigration Department, Indian Embassy and authorities at Kuala Lumpur International Airport as well as in India, to facilitate the repatriation exercise.
The cost of the entire exercise was borne by SDP.
At all times, SDP adhered to guidelines set by the Health Ministry and World Health Organization (WHO).
All the workers underwent the compulsory Covid-19 tests, and the authorities were notified of the results within 72 hours before departure.
The Immigration Department began allowing foreign workers to be repatriated in July.
While some of SDP’s workers opted to continue working with the company, this has always been a personal choice.
Migrant workers, whose permits have expired and are waiting to return home, will continue to live on SDP’s estates with free housing and subsidised utilities while the company works to secure safe and efficient passage back to their home countries.
SDP has also assured all its foreign workers that they will continue to receive insurance coverage, even if their work permits have expired.
Additionally, SDP’s migrant workers have ready access to use the company’s “Suara Kami” workers’ helpline if they have grievances about their repatriation.
“The welfare of our workers is our top priority, even when they are returning home.
“We will always respect their rights and ensure that they are able to return home safely, regardless of the circumstances.
“As a token of our appreciation, we also arranged for workers who have been with us for over 10 years to fly business class, ” said SDP Group managing director Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha.