From HR manager to a wet market butcher overnight

KUALA LUMPUR: Former human resources manager Mohd Haniff MA Shamsuddin (pic) was used to trimming the fat off his company’s workforce but now, he literally has to trim the fat off cuts of meat.

As offices reopened after Aidilfitri, Haniff heard that the joint- venture company in Bukit Damansara he was working for was in trouble.

As the sole breadwinner, he was afraid that he would be on the chopping block.

And sure enough, the company where he had worked for the past five years laid him off.

He was now officially among the almost 800,000 jobless Malaysians.

The father of three had to find something – anything – to support his family but no one was looking for a HR manager.

But there were people looking for Malaysians who were not fussy and did not mind working from 4am until noon, or in a hot, smelly environment, for about RM2,000 a month – as traders at the Petaling Jaya Old Town wet market.

“It didn’t take long to find a job. The difference is whether you want it or not,” said Haniff.

“As I have a family, I needed to do this because I have responsibilities.”

Although the pay was drastically less compared to his old job, something was better than nothing.

Market traders were desperate for Malaysians to fill the vacancies left behind by foreign workers who had been barred by the Petaling Jaya City Council from working at the stalls following Covid-19 outbreaks at wet markets in the Klang Valley in May.

Haniff bought new shoes for the interview and showed up at the market at 4am.

“Brother Anuar asked, ‘You looking for work? You came really early this morning,’” he remembered.

“I said, ‘Of course I’m here early, I’m here to work.”’

Anuar Abdullah, owner of a meat stall, hired him on the spot.

Before this, Haniff didn’t know how to handle knives, let alone a cleaver.

His wife had taken care of all the cooking.

But Anuar taught him and after a few weeks, he was able to man the stall and cut the meat according to a customer’s satisfaction.

As president of the PJ Old Town Wet Market Traders’ Association, Anuar has seen too many Malaysians come asking for a job, only to leave after a few days’ work.

“It’s not that we haven’t done as the government has asked.

“We have tried (recruiting locals) before.

“But Malaysians don’t like this type of work,” he said.

But in Haniff, Anuar found someone eager to learn.

“When I entered the market sector, I have a desire to open my own business.

“So, I want to learn every aspect of it, (and) so I’m starting at the bottom,” said Haniff.

But in an interesting turn of events, hours after Haniff was interviewed by Bernama, he tendered his resignation, saying that he had got a job offer.

When contacted, he said his boss at his old company had offered him a position there with more pay.

Despite this, Haniff is still intent on pursuing his dream of owning a business albeit a little bit at a time.

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