Plantation sector may be allowed to hire foreign workers once Covid-19 threat contained, says minister

Health workers conduct a Covid-19 screening test on local and foreign workers at Central Spectrum, Pulau Indah, December 10, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Health workers conduct a Covid-19 screening test on local and foreign workers at Central Spectrum, Pulau Indah, December 10, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KULAI, Feb 7 — The plantation and commodities industry may only be given the exemption to recruit foreign workers after the government has brought the Covid-19 pandemic under control in this sector.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali said currently, the government was still trying to ensure plantation operators provide conducive accommodation for their workers so as to comply with the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“We are conducting campaigns for the plantation sector such as palm oil, rubber and timber to implement strict SOPs to ensure there is no spread (of Covid-19) in the sector.

“If successful, the government will consider providing an exemption,” he told reporters after visiting the pepper farm pilot project site in Felda Inas Utara here, today.

He was commenting on the request from industry players especially in the plantation sector for an exemption over a government’s freeze on migrant worker recruitment.

The request was made based on a labour shortage that the sectors were facing, affecting their business operations.

Elaborating, Mohd Khairuddin said the recruitment freeze was implemented to safeguard the people’s welfare amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said several initiatives were being implemented by the government to fulfil the plantation sector’s manpower requirement such as by providing a wage subsidy of RM36 million to encourage the downstream rubber industry players to recruit local workers.

“Through this initiative, the government is allocating RM600 a month per worker for a period of six months.

“Besides that, a recalibration programme to recruit illegal immigrants to fill the vacancies in certain sectors is being considered,” he said. — Bernama

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