KUCHING, Feb 12 — The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) fully supports the call by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for the Ministry of Home Affairs to cease the use of foreign worker recruitment agents at the source country.
Such exercise is said to have resulted in exorbitant recruitment fee and leading to risks of exploitation and debt bondage which are one of the major indicators of forced labour.
FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said forced labour is one of the predominant human trafficking offences in the country which has led to Malaysia being ranked in Tier 3 of the 2022 Trafficking In Persons Report by the US State Department while eliminating recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by recruiters has been identified as one of the prioritised recommendation in the report.
“The industry therefore lauds the move to abolish the use of agents, especially third-party private employment agencies in the recruitment process at the source country and strongly recommends that the recruitment process be done via a Government to Government (G to G) arrangement with zero recruitment fee imposed on both workers and employers.
“In this regard, there should be no appointment of agents by the source country. Likewise, the Malaysian government must disband their appointment of foreign agents in the source country,” he said in a statement today.
Soh said equally important for the government to address is the elimination of any out-sourced third-party service providers involved in the foreign worker management and recruitment process both domestically and at the source country to handle the many segments or processes involved in the employment of foreign workers.
He said Malaysia must remove such rent-seeking culture which can also lead to abuse of power of the agencies and officers involved by asserting their discretionary powers when handling the applications.
“The various applications processes must be streamlined into one single system, preferably online, which will also bring down the cost for employers drastically.
“Previously, third party service providers were appointed by the Malaysian Government to undertake selected outsourced processing services at the source country for visa application and immigration security clearance which were prior to that handled directly by the respective Malaysian Embassies,” he added.
Soh said FMM would also like to take the opportunity to comment on the recent announcement by Minister of Human Resources on the possible slowing down of the approval timelines of foreign worker approvals under the recently launched Foreign Worker Employment Relaxation Plan.
He opined that the government should not stop nor should they delay the approval of foreign workers based on the timelines which the government committed to under the Foreign Worker Employment Relaxation Plan which the government launched last month.
“The government’s gesture to introduce the relaxation plan was well received and highly appreciated by the business community towards facilitating business operating in the highly uncertain and challenging economic environment.
“The three-day timeline under the relaxation plan is a commitment set by the government and thus it has set the expectation of the industry. Stopping or delaying the process will not augur well with the business community who are working hard to ramp up production and capacity,” he said.
Soh said the government should receive all applications on the basis that this plan was launched to meet the urgent need of workers by the sectors that are in critical need of workers to support their business operations and recovery.
If the problem is related to the Foreign Worker Centralised Management System not being able to cope with the massive flow of applications, then the solution should be for the service provider to expand the bandwidth of the processing system instead of the ministry resorting to stop receiving applications, he asserted.
According to him, there must be deep understanding that companies applying for workers under the relaxation plan would only apply and bring in the required numbers based on their current needs and to cater for order projections including peak seasons for selected sectors.
As such, the spike in applications by these companies are in order to meet their current and anticipated manpower needs, he said.
He felt that employers would not apply for excessive workers as there are substantial financial commitments that have to be made upfront once the application is approved.
Furthermore, he said the government has already provided as a key condition under this plan where companies with approvals would have six months to fulfil all the regulatory requirements involved in the employment of foreign workers.
“The government can conduct the necessary audits/checks during this period to check if there is any abuse of the relaxation given and if necessary, could revoke the approvals given with proper justification.”
Soh said the industry also appealed for a better end to end facilitation of the Foreign Worker Recruitment Relaxation Plan by the other agencies involved in particular the processing of the calling visa by the Immigration Department, Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure that worker arrivals could be equally expedited once the workers have received the respective consular clearance. — Bernama