Labour- intensive industries in Sarawak such as oil palm plantations, manufacturing and construction sectors are facing a shortage of workers.
Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing has asked the state government to assist these industries in hiring workers, including foreigners.
“We must assist employers in legally hiring foreign workers in a safe and well-regulated manner to solve the manpower shortage,” he said in a statement.
He said that nearly all economic sectors in Bintulu faced a shortage of workers to keep their operations going.
“Though plantations have a good harvest, it is of no use if there aren’t enough workers to harvest the crops.
“The manufacturing and construction industries are unable to complete projects on schedule and are being hit by late delivery penalties.
“As a result, it had caused losses to businesses both big and small. Eventually it will also cause the state government to suffer revenue loss,” he added.
Without official support and channels, Tiong said employers might be tempted to take risks and obtain foreign labour through different means, using middlemen and other entities that charge high fees but without security and accountability.
This could also result in an influx of unverified and untested workers that could hinder the Health Department’s effort to curb the transmission of Covid-19, he pointed out.
“I suggest that the Sarawak government hold talks with employers to formulate a mechanism to hire selected workers who are in detention centres because of expired work permits.
“In order to curb abuse, the state government may consider adjusting the limits on the number of workers each employer may hire based on the industry,” he said.
He also proposed that the state design a strict but effective mechanism for importing foreign labour for qualified enterprises if all the foreign workers in detention centres had been hired.
“This method can also help the government reduce the costs of deporting the overstaying individuals and providing daily living needs for the foreign workers in the detention centres,” he noted.
Tiong said that since no one could accurately predict when Sarawak would successfully contain the pandemic, the state could not wait and let the labour shortage continue to the detriment of the market.