Hire retrenched workers first, factories told

KUALA LUMPUR: Companies will not be allowed to recruit foreign workers until they re-hire all the local staff they retrenched.

Labour director-general Datuk Ismail Abdul Rahim said this practice was actually entrenched in the Government’s Code of Conduct for Industrial Harmony.

“The companies should give priority to recalling the workers they retrenched. “These workers can be recruited as new employees and there won’t be any problem retraining them as they already have the skills for it,” he said in an interview here yesterday.

Ismail said the department would only consider the request for foreign workers after companies have shown that they had tried their very best to recruit locals.

“If the manufacturers don’t have enough staff, they can come to us and we will try to place them with workers registered with the department first.

“During the last slowdown, about 27,000 local workers were retrenched. Out of this, we managed to find work for 10,000 through our various programmes.

“About 10,000 more have enrolled in our train and place programmes so there is still another 7,000 workers who can be absorbed into the job market,” he added.

Ismail was commenting on pleas made by various firms including the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers, the electronics sector and several multi-national companies for the Government to lift the freeze on foreign workers, as they were facing an acute shortage of staff following rising orders from around the world.

Some of the companies claimed that many retrenched locals preferred to be enrolled in the “train and place” programmes, for which they were paid a monthly allowance of between RM500 and RM800 due to the low pay on offer.

The freeze was imposed during the last economic slowdown when orders dipped as part of the Government’s measure to safeguard jobs for locals.

Ismail admitted that the low pay structure for factory workers was making it hard to entice locals. “The basic pay is only around RM500 without allowances and overtime. But locals do not wish to work overtime everyday because they want to spend time with their family, unlike foreign workers,” he said.

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