Govt urged to overcome shortage of legal workers before roping in illegals
PETALING JAYA: The Master Builders Association of Malaysia (MBAM) wants the government to address issues surrounding limited supply of legal workers before embarking on yet another crackdown against undocumented migrants in the country.
MBAM president Matthew Tee told theantdaily that while the association did not condone the practice of hiring undocumented migrants to work in construction sites, there were often “not enough” legal workers available to complete a project within a stipulated deadline.
“The government should understand the reasons behind the high demands for illegal workers.
“MBAM has consistently requested for the workers’ recruitment process to be simplified as delays would ultimately affect implementation of an ongoing (construction) project,” Tee said.
He was responding to the Home Ministry’s large-scale operation against undocumented migrants beginning Jan 21, after the end of a “grace period” given to both workers and their employers.
Tee also noted that the process to hire a legal foreign worker could take up to eight months, involving dealings with multiple government ministries and agencies fraught with red-tape.
“There was a time in the 90s when the government issued MBAM with a one-off quota system to bring in foreign workers in light of a similar crackdown on undocumented migrants. Some of the construction sites (at the time) were grounded,” Tee recalled.
However, in a Bernama report on Aug 5 last year Immigration director-general Datuk Alias Ahmad was quoted as saying that the lead time to process visas and permits for foreign workers in the construction industry is 14 days and not eight months as claimed by MBAM.
Tee also urged the authorities to provide clear guidelines on future raids at construction sites as MBAM members, representing almost 90% of construction companies listed on Bursa Malaysia, were “seriously affected” in the past.
“Whenever there is news of raids, most of the workers, whether legal or illegal, will flee the work sites to avoid arrest.
“It is our (MBAM) understanding that all the workers, including the legal ones, will be detained unless they can prove that they have proper documentation,” Tee said, adding there were instances where legitimate immigration papers of foreign workers were not accepted by enforcement personnel due to lack of coordination between the agencies concerned.
Tee said it was “common procedure” for employers to keep their workers' documents in the office instead of taking them to the construction sites.
“MBAM urges the authorities to be consistent in their procedure when conducting such raids. Don't just take our workers away,” he stressed.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had also reportedly said all 2.3 million foreign workers in 10 recognised sectors were required to apply for the new I-Kad identification document by the end of this year.
Zahid said the colour-coded I-Kad, which will cost a worker or his employer RM110, will be fitted with high-tech security features such as biometric fingerprint and Nexcode mobile data security. It will be issued in stages according to sectors.
Tee, in response to Zahid, urged the government to consider charging lower fees for the I-Kad as employers were already paying levies and other processing fees.
“As we all know, the construction industry can be quite labour-intensive, which means that if an employer employs 1,000 foreign workers, he has to pay an additional RM110,000 for these I- cards,” Tee said.
Meanwhile, the crackdown is also expected to once again highlight various human rights issues pertaining to the government’s treatment of undocumented migrants.
These issues include overcrowding and poor facilities in detention depots, Malaysia’s non-recognition of refugee status, high-handed action by the authorities involved in raids as well as a perceived bias towards protecting the interests of third-party agents involved in the recruitment process.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had on Jan 6 reportedly said there were some 68,000 undocumented migrants detained in 10 detention depots nationwide at a daily cost of RM35 per person for food and administrative matters.
This translates to a total cost of RM2.38 million a day, RM71.4 million a month and an average of RM8.56 billion a year, notwithstanding medical expenses which Wan Junaidi said could raise the cost to RM75 per person. - The Ant Daily, 21/1/2014, Govt urged to overcome shortage of legal workers before roping in illegals