KOTA KINABALU, Jan 9 — Sabah industry players have appealed to the state government to help resolve the shortage of foreign workers faced by the industries and recommended several measures to urgently address their predicament. 

Sabah Employers Association (SEA) secretary general Fong Ming San urged the state government to open its borders and allow industries to recruit workers from the Philippines and Indonesia, implement another round of amnesty/regularisation programme for the estimated 1.2 million illegal immigrants in the state.

“Beside that, allow application of quota to be carried out immediately, allow automatic renewal of unutilised quota approved pre-pandemic and speedier processing of applications for quota,” he said in a statement here today.

Fong said Sabah industries which are dependent on foreign labour also request work permits to be granted for holders of IMM13 and red or green identity cards by Philippine and Indonesian immigrants currently in the state.

He also urged for the continuation of the 2019 Recalibration Programme stalled by the pandemic and allow the 80,000 qualified “pending” cases to be ready for legal employment and ensure speedier processing of application for foreign workers quota.

“Allow application for foreign workers quota to be carried out immediately, including automatic renewal of unutilised quota approved pre pandemic and issue the latest guidelines for application of foreign workers employment,” he said.

Others measures recommend are to reduce the foreign workers levy of RM6,000 (manufacturing, construction and services sectors) for those having worked 11 years and above; and renew work passes of properly documented workers who were not able to renew them due to Covid-19 movement control measures.

Fong said six trade associations namely SEA, Sabah Timber Industries Association (STIA), Timber Association of Sabah, Sabah Furniture Association, SME Association of Sabah and The East Malaysia Planters’ Association have submitted a memorandum on foreign workers to Chief Minister Datuk Hajiji Noor through Deputy Chief Minister cum Sabah Industrial Development Minister Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam recently.

Fong said Sabah industries have been hit by shortage of foreign workers in the past few years, with the situation turning dire since March last year after the country closed its borders as a measure to control the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Foreign workers with expired permits returned to their home countries and were subsequently unable to return to Malaysia and, at the same time, the government froze intake of new foreign workers,” he added. — Bernama