10% of mamak eateries closed due to staff shortage

Rozita (right), who operates a food stall in Johor Baru prefers hiring Indonesian workers who are more reliable than local staff.

EATERY operators in Johor are appealing to the new Federal Government to address their difficulties in hiring foreign workers.

Johor Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs Association (Perusim) secretary Hussein Ibrahim said Indian-Muslim restaurants would not be able to operate without foreign labour.

He said approval for hiring foreign workers had been given by the three previous Federal Governments between May 2018 until Parliament was dissolved on Oct 10 to make way for the 15th General Election.

Hussein said despite submitting their applications to the relevant authorities, the operators had yet to receive any reply on the status of their applications.

“We have already seen our members cease operations or shorten their business hours,” he said.

Hussein said about 30 out of the association’s 300 Indian-Muslim restaurants in Johor, especially in Johor Baru, had closed shop.

He said only a handful of them were operating around the clock while others shortened their business hours till 2am instead of 5am daily due to lack of workers.

Hussein added that waiters, cooks, dishwashers and cashiers “are the backbone of our restaurants and eateries closing down would have serious long-term repercussions on the economy”.

Hussein said suppliers of cooking and food packaging items, raw items, logistics and transport providers would also be affected.

He said the previous government’s ruling to only allow the construction, plantation and agriculture to hire foreign workers, was potentially damaging to the economy.

“For instance, if we request for 100 foreign workers, the Human Resource Ministry will only approve between 10 and 15. Even then, we are not seeing them turn up,” said Hussein.

He said the ministry should get feedback from food stall and restaurant operators in the country before issuing such rulings.

He revealed that workers earn a basic salary of RM1,500 on average, not including overtime, in addition to having accommodation and meals provided daily.

Hussein said the wages were a good offer, especially for school dropouts or those with poor academic qualifications but locals were not interested in such jobs.

He said Perusim members had tried to recruit Malaysians but the locals preferred to work in fast-food restaurants, shopping centres and hypermarkets.

“South Indian workers are the best choice for us as they speak Tamil,” he said.

Hussein said he also hoped the new Federal Government could start talking with the Indonesian government to allow Indonesians to work in this sector.

Rozita Ramli, who runs a stall at Jalan Cermat Hawker Centre in Taman Maju Jaya, Johor Baru, said she used to hire locals as cooks and dishwashers.

“Now, I don’t want to hire them. They come to work as they please and do not keep regular hours. They also make many excuses and ask for leave frequently.

“I need workers at very specific times. I cannot depend on local workers,” she said.

Rozita, who currently has four Indonesian workers, said although it was more expensive to hire them, she had to do so in order to stay in business.

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