India upbeat over labour deals

KUALA LUMPUR: Indian nationals arriving here under a newly-signed bilateral labour accord will not be entitled to a minimum wage but their interests will not be overlooked.

Indian High Commissioner to Malaysia Ashok K. Kantha said his Government had accepted that Ma­­lay­­­sia preferred to let demand and supply dictate wages.

He said Indian workers would still be “protected” as Indian immigration authorities could bar the departure of those considered underpaid.

“The important thing is that re­­cruitment will be done fairly with all sides – workers, employers and recruiting agents – protected.

“A joint working group will be established to define things clearly. Malaysia will host the first meeting,’’ he said in an interview in conjunction with India’s 60th Republic Day celebrations today.

The agreement was signed in New Delhi on Jan 3 between Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi.

There are about 150,000 Indian nationals working in Malaysia, most of them in the service sector and others in construction and agriculture, making them the third largest foreign workforce here.

India had been seeking an agreement with Malaysia on manpower recruitment since 2003, wanting a “benchmark” minimum wage (which the high commission then set at RM600) and dispute settlement mechanism.

Kantha, who was posted here in 2007, said the new agreement drafted in June 2007 would also streamline the recruitment of Malaysian workers in India.

On other matters, he said two-way trade last year was expected to have crossed the US$10bil (RM35.7bil) mark, adding that the upward spiral would continue despite the global economic slump.

“For the month of November last year, Malaysia’s exports to India grew by 23%, while India also exported more here. That’s how productive our relations have been,’’ he added.

The envoy also said a comprehensive economic co-operation agreement to consolidate trade between both countries was expected to be finalised by year-end, with the next round of talks scheduled held here from Feb 10-12.

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