PETALING JAYA: The construction industry wants the government to reconsider its decision to cut down on the number of foreign workers in the sector as well as an extension to their loan moratorium, failing which they claim many may be forced to hire illegals or even shut down.
Industry players said while it welcomed the government’s efforts to train locals in supervisory roles in the construction sector, the urgent need was for workers in 3D – dirty, dangerous and difficult – jobs.
Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) chairman Foo Chek Lee said the industry was worried that despite more than 80% of construction projects having restarted on site, they were not able to go full capacity due to a shortage of workers.
Foo said construction companies, especially the smaller firms, were in a quandary as they relied mostly on foreign labour.
He warned that the dire shortage of workers plus the urgency to complete the projects might force many to resort to hiring illegal foreign workers.
“During normal times, we would have had 1.2 million construction workers, 430,000 of whom would be legal foreign workers.
“As much as we appreciate the government’s efforts to train locals, we hope that the Human Resources Ministry will push the jobless locals to take up the 3D jobs in the construction industry. We are willing to pay the wages they ask for – up to RM3,000,” said Foo.
On July 11, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof had announced that the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) was setting aside RM70mil for the implementation of several strategic programmes to help the industry affected by the movement control order (MCO), including for some 3,700 local construction workers and youths to be trained in project supervision and management.
With construction sites restarting their operations only in June, Foo said it was normal for their clients to take some time to disburse their payment.
“Most of our members have told us that they will only get their payment in September or October and if there is no moratorium before that, most of the smaller companies would have to face bankruptcy or close down.
“We are also hoping for the Temporary Measures Bill (against Covid-19) as soon as possible to allow us to charge according to what we have spent.
“When we signed the contract, the cost of the project had taken into consideration the cost that we had expected to incur then – pre-Covid 19.
“But now, we have the extra costs that we have to incur plus the shortage of workers which may delay the completion of the projects,” said Foo, who also suggested government soft loans and bridging loans to help struggling companies.
MBAM currently has 17,000 members nationwide.
Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Soam Heng Choon said the current output was at only 70% due to the need for compliance with the standard operating procedure (SOP) and shortage of workers.
“If the shortage continues, there could be potential delays and escalation in costs. The housing construction industry really needs labour to do the work and not so much of supervisory roles,” said Soam.
He hopes the government would extend the loan moratorium for businesses and individuals unable to meet their repayment commitments after September.
Introduced by the government as part of the fiscal stimulus plan during the MCO period, the six-month loan moratorium, which ends on Sept 30, refers to the period in which a borrower is not obligated to make monthly repayments to the banks.