Trim foreign labour

Andrew Lo

KUCHING: Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak is rooting for the government to trim the country’s dependence on foreign labour.

Its secretary Andrew Lo described the government’s undecided stance on the issue as exasperating as he stressed that it was glaring and obvious that Malaysia had to trim the number of foreign workers, even before the movement control order (MCO).

“To think otherwise is like an ostrich with its head in the sand,” he said in a statement issued yesterday.

He further said that for years, the country had been creating low value jobs to suit the foreign workers and feed the agents.

“This has led Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to say that Malaysia needed foreign labour because the number of local workers was insufficient to meet the demand of the workforce required.

“Why are we creating industries to employ millions of workers of other countries who send back their wages to help on the development of other countries?” he pointed out.

Lo added that year after year, the government intended to improve labour productivity through higher value and highly skilled jobs.

However, he said, this would remain a pipe dream as there was no incentive for employers to invest in technology and modern production methods as long as there were abundant cheap and mostly illegal foreign workers.

“According to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), 85 per cent of SMEs are employing illegal foreign workers.

“We must mobilise and restructure the jobs and not the workers. Otherwise we are putting a square peg into a round hole,” he said.

He also mentioned that in Singapore, it had been reported that the majority of the Covid-19 positive individuals were foreign workers.

“How many of our estimated four million workers that have been tested (for Covid-19)?” he questioned.

Yesterday, Ismail Sabri revealed that the Cabinet would have to discuss and make a decision later whether or not to trim the country’s dependence on foreign labour.

He noted that although Malaysia needed foreign labour to meet the demand of the workforce required, the current Covid-19 pandemic might lead to a new perspective but this would have to be deliberated during a future Cabinet meeting.