PETALING JAYA: Employers with illegal foreign workers in four sub-sectors should utilise the flexibility given under the government’s Labour Recalibration Plan, say employers and business groups.
However, some of them also said that new foreign workers were still sorely needed as not all illegal workers could be relied on after they have been legalised.
Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said this flexibility was timely given that new intakes of foreign workers were not permitted because of the Covid-19 pandemic, until June this year.
MEF hopes the sub-sectors concerned will use the flexibility given to legalise illegal foreign workers who may be in their employment.
Shamsuddin was commenting on the government’s latest decision to allow employers in four sub-sectors of the service industry with illegal foreign workers to apply to legalise them until the end of June.
He also called on the government to allow all economic sectors with foreign workers whose work permits are about to expire to have the validity extended for another year.
National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia secretary-general Datuk Low Kian Chuan said the application process should be made simpler, open to all sectors and with no restrictive conditions such as quotas.
“Businesses know best how many foreign workers they need.
“Illegal workers from other sectors should be allowed to be hired in a different sector as long as they are not running away from the current employer, ” he added.
Pointing out that the current foreign workers’ shortage has resulted in employers luring them from other employers with better wages, he said the government could do more by having a repository of illegal foreign workers ready to be legalised and hired.
Low suggests that the government have a foreign workers’ replacement programme that allows an automatic replacement of documented foreign workers whose work permits have expired and returned to their home countries, based on the employer’s existing foreign workers’ quota.
Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai noted that although employers have the option of getting foreign labour through the “Change of Employer” scheme effective last June 10 or the Labour Recalibration Programme since last Nov 16, many employers faced extra challenges in meeting some of the conditions.
“There is no repository of workers available for employment under these schemes. Employers are also wary of middlemen offering workers at a fee.
“At the same time, employers have concerns of these illegal workers’ tendency to abscond once they have valid work permits, ” he said.