Trade groups urge Sabah govt to resolve shortage of foreign workers

KOTA KINABALU: Six trade associations are seeking help from the Sabah government to resolve a shortage of foreign worker faced by industries in the state.

The associations, ranging from SME to plantation groups, want the state to open up the borders to allow the recruitment of foreign workers and consider providing amnesty to the estimated 1.2 million foreigners already in the state as part of measures to resolve the foreign worker shortage.

Sabah Timber Industries Association, Timber Association of Sabah, Sabah Furniture Association, SME Association of Sabah, Sabah Employers Association (SEA) and the East Malaysia Planters’ Association have submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor seeking his intervention to resolve the shortage.

The recommended measures in the memorandum were submitted by SEA secretary-general Fong Ming San through Deputy Chief Minister and Industrial Develop-ment Minister Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam.

Fong said Sabah industry members wanted the state to address several issues to resolve the problems faced by them.

They asked the government to reopen the borders to allow industries to recruit workers from the Philippines and Indonesia and implement another round of amnesty/regularisation programmes for the estimated 1.2 million illegal immigrants in the state.

The groups also want the quota issues to be resolved and to grant work permits for holders of IMM13 and Red or Green Identity Cards to the Philippine and Indonesian immigrants in the state.

The 2019 Recalibration Programme, stalled by the Covid-19 pandemic, should be continued to allow the 80,000 qualified “pending” cases to be ready for legal employment, said the groups.

Additionally, the application for foreign workers’ quota should be carried out, including automatic renewal of unutilised quota approved prior to the start of the pandemic.

They said the foreign worker levy of RM6,000 for the manufacturing, construction and services sectors should be reduced for those having worked 11 years and more.

The groups said the authorities should also renew the work passes of properly documented workers who were not able to renew them due to Covid-19 movement controls.

Fong said Sabah industries dependent on foreign labour had been in dire straits since March 2020 when the country closed its borders.

“Foreign workers with expired permits returned to their home countries and were unable to return to Malaysia. At the same time, the government froze the intake of new foreign workers.

“With the reopening of economic activities, the need to address foreign worker shortage is of utmost priority in industries that are difficult, dirty and demanding, which are shunned by locals,” he said.

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