Monday, March 16, 2009

Whose permits are being renewed? And whose are not? Contractual obligations must be fulfilled.

When it comes to foreign/migrant workers, it must be noted that these workers do enter into employment agreement/contract with their employers whereby it is usually stipulated the minimum number of years that they will be working in Malaysia for, and the wages and other employment benefits that they will be receiving.

But, alas when it comes to work permits - these are usually issued for the period of 1 year at a time by the Malaysian government (Immigration Department).

If all is well, then these work permits are renewed annually, and employers are able to fulfill their contractual obligations to their workers.

Now, we hear that the Malaysian government is not renewing permits - and that causes some worry. Are employers being prevented from fulfilling their contractual obligations to these migrant workers? This is not at all right.

For many a migrant worker, they need to work for at least 3 years to be able to justify their coming over to Malaysia to work.

If they work 1 year or less, they will be in worse off condition that before they left their home country. They may not even be able to settle the debts incurred, when they chose to come over to Malaysia to work.

If they work for 2 years - they may be able to settle their debts (and, maybe situation may be the same if they had just stayed and worked in their home country)

If they work for 3 years, or more - then they will be better off - and their sacrifices, of being separated from family and friends, and being subjected to difficult living/working conditions, may be justified.

Hence, the non-renewal of work permits is of concern...

Maybe, permits need to be renewed to ensure that the migrant worker at the very least had the opportunity to work 2-3 years.

With regard to termination of workers, by reason of retrenchment - maybe the long accepted principle of "Last In First Out" (LIFO) should be applied, or maybe not when it comes to migrant workers. Certainly, that warped principle knowed as Foreign Workers First Out priciple need to go (see earlier posts : Malaysia's ‘Foreign Workers First Out’(FWFO) Policy is UNJUST, DISCRIMINATORY and UNCONSTITUTIONAL)

The termination and lay-off benefits as provided for in our Malaysian laws may not be appropriate or just to migrant workers. In fact, it may also not be just to Malaysian workers, many of whom are no more employed as full time workers - but are employed as very short fixed term contractual workers, or as workers supplied by some sub-contractor.

A new law need to be made that will deal with these 'fixed-term contractual workers' - and maybe their 'termination and lay-off benefits' must be, say 75% of their basic wages times the number of months remaining in their fixed-term (or minimum duration) employment contracts/agreements. 25% is deducted as being roughly the sum one will spend for own meals, etc.

The other policy that may be adopted is that in the event that the migrant worker has been retrenched, then the said migrant (if he has been in employment in Malaysia for less than 3 years), will be given new amended work permits to be able to work with an employer in a sector that still has a need for workers. Maybe, migrant workers with the shortest time in Malaysia shall be the priority.

They may be non-citizens, but they are workers and human beings, and they need to be treated as such. The government needs to develop JUST policies and principles.

The government has slashed its work permit approvals for foreign workers by almost 70 percent so far this year, faced with the twin threat of layoffs and recession.


In January and February, an average of 250 permits were approved daily compared to 800 last year, following a more stringent vetting process by the authorities, a Home Ministry official told the Star newspaper.

"Those requesting for foreign labour have to prove that they have made the effort to employ locals," the ministry's senior deputy secretary-general Raja Azahar Raja Abdul Manap was quoted as saying.

"If they can prove it, then they will get the clearance," he said.

A ministry spokesman was not immediately available to confirm the report.

Hiring of new foreign workers banned

In January, Malaysia banned the hiring of new foreigners in the manufacturing and services sectors after a report forecast 45,000 Malaysians would lose their jobs in the next few months.

And last week, the government cancelled work visas issued to 55,000 Bangladeshi workers after unions said the situation for Malaysians was bleak enough without additional foreign manpower being brought in.

Malaysia is one of Asia's largest importers of labour and has an estimated 2.2 million foreign workers, who are the mainstay of the plantation and manufacturing sectors.

However, the government has become concerned about the ramifications of having such a large migrant workforce and periodically tries to reduce it.

- AFP- Malaysiakini, 16/3/2009, Foreign worker permits slashed by 70%

1 comment:

bn haramjadah said...

I remember what a 5 star hotel group near ampang did during the 1998 crisis, to their expatriate contract workers, filipinos and bangladeshis. They were all called for a meeting flanked by heavily armed security guards and a few policemen. They were TOLD THEIR THEIR PERMITS AND WORK CONTRACTS WERE TERMINATED WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT- paid their salaries, escorted to busses already waiting downstairs, to their hostels told to pack up in 15 minutes, escorted to klia and flown out to their country of origin, all within a spate of a couple of hour. All this while the employees were in a state of shock, they were tightly controlled and some were roughed up for complaining and separated from the group. Thats what happens where the authorities are also in cohorts with the big players. Malaysian employers are one of the worst human rights violaters around.