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Workers load palm fruits onto a lorry at a plantation in Sepang October 30, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Workers load palm fruits onto a lorry at a plantation in Sepang October 30, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 — The Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) has welcomed the government’s decision to grant special approval to bring in 32,000 foreign workers to ease the labour shortage in the plantation sector.

Minister of Human Resources Datuk Seri M Saravanan has said that his ministry is drawing up standard operating procedures (SOPs), including identifying a 2,000-person capacity Covid-19 isolation centre near Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), to facilitate the bringing in of the foreign workers.

ACCCIM said in a statement today that the measure will provide relief to the plantation sector, including the palm oil industry, which had suffered financial and revenue losses as the shortages of workers have restrained peak harvesting season.

President Datuk Low Kian Chuan said he also hopes that the government could consider implementing a similar arrangement to help ease the shortages of workers in the manufacturing and construction sectors, subject to the necessary SOPs.

“We have conveyed our concerns about the worker shortages in our recent engagement with the Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Human Resources. We are worried that the industries would miss out on the ride of a stronger revival in demand if the shortages of foreign manpower persist,” he said.

ACCCIM noted that Malaysia needs a holistic approach to handle and regulate the recruitment process under a transparent end-to-end system to apply and approve the application of foreign workers.

In the medium term, the chamber said it supported the government’s calls to reduce over-dependency on foreign workers, especially the low-skilled as our country moves towards a high-income nation with the industries adopting technology and automation.

The weaning off from foreign workers must not be abruptly and carried out in a gradual manner within a stipulated timeline to ease disruptions to businesses, it said.

ACCCIM believed that industries and businesses are committed to working together with the authorities to design a sustainable migrant workers recruitment system based on good labour practices covering minimum standards of housing and amenities, as well as fair treatment, as stipulated under the law.

“We also welcome the government’s pledge to take steps to eliminate forced labour after the country was downgraded by the US to the worst level that is Tier 3 for failing to meet minimal standards for the elimination of trafficking (of workers) and was not making significant efforts to (correct the situation).

“Failure to improve the rating would put our country’s image and Malaysian companies’ reputation at risk,” it added. — Bernama

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