PETALING JAYA: Business owners and restaurant operators have put out an SOS to the Prime Minister to intervene on what they say is a critical shortage of workers.
In a meeting with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at his office in Putrajaya, they appealed to him to help with swifter approvals for fresh applications and cut down “red tape” on the process of getting replacement workers for those who returned to their home countries.
Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) honorary secretary Habebur Rahman Shahul Hameed said they sought the meeting with the Prime Minister as things were becoming “dire”.
“We had no choice but to turn to him as locals do not want to take up jobs in restaurants. So, we need foreigners to plug the gap,’’ he said yesterday.
Habebur said Dr Mahathir pledged to discuss the matter at the Cabinet and with Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran.
“He explained that there were over 700,000 foreign workers in Malaysia and this would translate to a certain amount of money outflow from the country.
“We agree, but Malaysians do not want to work in restaurants or construction sites.
“This is why we need foreign workers,” he said.
The meeting with Dr Mahathir earlier this week was attended by Presma’s entire exco line-up, led by its president Ayoob Khan Muhamad Yakub.
Habebur said Presma members were facing difficulty in getting replacements for workers who had left, supposedly due to a freeze, which he hoped could be lifted.
He also appealed for assistance to be extended to employers who were not computer savvy, saying applications were now being done online.
“Not all our members are educated. We will teach them about this from time to time but for now, we are looking for an immediate solution because we want to save our businesses first.
“We are also considering the idea of changing the concept of restaurants, maybe to fine dining or self-service. We will study it first,” he said.
A restaurant supervisor in Brickfields said a shortage of workers caused the restaurant to close its branch in Klang.
“Some of our experienced chefs have gone back to India after working with us for about 10 years. All we want are replacements, we are not hiring more people,” he said.
Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Datuk Soh Thian Lai said applications for foreign workers seemed to take much longer.
He said FMM was in full support of the government’s stringent processes but hoped that the industry’s needs could be considered.
“Some members also told me that it is not easy to get replacements for those who have gone back. We also hope the government can take firm action to remove middlemen or third party agents and let employers deal directly with the source country,” said Soh.
Association of Employment Agencies Malaysia (Papa) president Foo Yong Hooi confirmed that employers were faced with problems over replacement workers as it was temporarily suspended.
Previously, he said employers could apply for a replacement after applying for a check-out memo for foreign workers and ensuring that they left the country.
He said the system should be changed to simplify the process and also reduce the burden on the authorities.
“As for restaurants, there are certain ratios based on seating and the number of patrons. A restaurant can usually employ a maximum of 20 foreign workers.
“For those running 24-hour outlets, even 20 workers may not be enough. The ratio should be adjusted,” he said.
In June, Kulasegaran ordered all restaurants nationwide to recruit only locals as cooks from Jan 1 next year to reduce the dependence on foreign labour.
In September, he also announced that foreign workers holding the Visit Pass – Temporary Employment for the past 10 years would be given a reprieve to continue working for a maximum three years.
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