Plantation companies in Sarawak will find it harder to employ foreign workers as the state embarks on a “locals first” policy to fill up vacancies in the sector struggling with a shortage of workers.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said locals should consist 30% of workers in any plantation.
“The 30% is the minimum as the state government aspires to have the ratio increased to 50%.” he said.
But, to fill up current shortages, the state government is bringing in 12,000 Bangladeshi workers.
He said Immigration Department’s record showed 139,761 legal foreign workers, mostly Indonesians, working in Sarawak.
Meanwhile, the new policy guideline will have a segregation rule, designed to keep interaction between foreign works and locals at a minimum, which companies must comply with.
Under the rule, companies must accommodate the workers within the plantation as they are banned from renting houses.
Companies are required to build workers’ quarters and they must meet International Labour Organisation standards.
“We don’t want them living in the urban centres where they could freely interact and assimilate with the local community,” Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told reporters after attending a briefing by the Immigration Department on the state’s preparedness, rules and guidelines in handling the coming of the Bangladeshi workers.
He said lessons learned from the peninsula had gone into the drawing up of the rules and guidelines.
“We do not want the social and political implications these workers had created in the peninsula brought to the state.”
In the “locals first” policy, Wan Junaidi said the plantation companies must advertise the vacant positions first. Employers could only resort to bringing in foreign workers when they could not find locals to fill the vacancies.
He added that companies would bear the consequences if they mistreated the hired foreigners.
The state policy also requires the companies to be responsible in ensuring that all the workers they engaged are repatriated at the end of their contract.
But Wan Junadi said there were difficulties in forcing companies to comply.
“There is no law yet that would make it a legal obligation for companies to be responsible in repatriating their foreign workers at the end of their work stint.
“I am now studying our immigration laws, our policy and to draft a new law to make employers responsible.”
Wan Junaidi said since five “key” bills – including the anti-terrorism and anti-human trafficking bills and the amendment to the Sedition Act – were to be tabled in parliament in March, he expected the new law could probably be tabled in July.
Sarawak has set a target of having two million hectares of oil palm plantations by 2020.
The Bangladeshi workers that are being brought in could be offered work up to five years and an extension of a further five if the companies still needed them. – February 3, 2015.
news source & image credits: themalaysianinsider.com