Tighten up migrant labour recalibration efforts, govt told

PETALING JAYA: While the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has called for the strict enforcement against illegal foreign workers to be continued even after the second Labour Recalibration Programme (RTK 2.0) ends on March 31, another group feels that a third RTK may be necessary.

MEF president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said those who registered to be legalised were “marginal” compared with the total number.

“MEF hopes the government will continue to be strict with the enforcement,” he said.

When asked, Syed Hussain said the lack of legal documentation is one of the major constraints in legalising illegal foreign workers under RTK 2.0.

“Even though the process under RTK 2.0 is supposed to take up to three weeks, it requires both employers and foreign workers to have their respective required documents in hand,” he said.

He also lauded the setting up of a one-stop centre for RTK 2.0 verification at the Immigration Department’s headquarters in Putrajaya.

“It helps both employers and illegal foreigners to speed up the application process through the issuance of the Pas Lawatan Kerja Sementara (PLKS) for foreign workers, even without a prior appointment,” he added.

Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Association of Malaysia president Datuk William Ng called for the recalibration to be applied to workers who came in 2023.

“Given the recent news of workers being brought in and left in the lurch by agents, it is only right to allow this amnesty and registration for workers who are already gainfully employed and contributing to our economy,” he said.

Ng said the issue of foreign workers is unfortunately more complex than it should be.

“It involves multiple government departments and a plethora of registered and unregistered agents on both sides of the border while balancing the economy’s needs, job availability for locals, and rights of workers.

“SMEs are supportive of RTK 2.0.

“(The programme) has enabled SMEs that may have inadvertently hired undocumented workers to rectify the issue instead of sending them home only to bring them back again.”

However, Ng said another recalibration may be necessary.

“Considering the situation of workers being brought in without ready jobs, it is only humane to consider an RTK 3.0 soon while continuing to clamp down on errant agents and employers,” he said.

Master Builders Association Malaysia president Oliver Wee said that although well-intended, the recalibration process often takes too long.

“For instance, too many steps exist before the Permohonan Lanjutan ePLKS can be produced.

“In addition, embassies should expedite the issuance of new passports to these workers,” he said.

Wee said the construction industry is still short of both local and foreign skilled workers.

“It is an important element in our industry, as unskilled labour produce a lot of defective work that is costly to rectify.”

He said the onus is on the government to provide a solution to ensure all industries have a sufficient workforce.

“No one would employ more workers than is necessary,” he said.

Wee also called on the construction industry to push for increased utilisation of technology.

Such technology, he said, encompasses tools such as the Industrialised Building System, mechanisation and robotics.

“Not only are they vital in raising efficiency and sustainability in the industry, it would lead to us reducing our dependency on foreign labour,” he added.

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