Delays in foreign worker processing causing losses, say Malaysia’s bosses

With Malaysia’s borders reopening, industry players say there should be equal treatment for inbound travelers and foreign workers.

Allison Lai and Gerard Gimino

Allison Lai and Gerard Gimino

The Star


Hard labour: Workers harvesting oil palm bunches at a palm oil plantation in Banting, Selangor. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

March 29, 2022

PETALING JAYA — It has not been a bed of roses for businesses that want to hire foreign workers.

They have voiced concerns that the recruitment process is still slow, as the government had only recently started the process, while the memoranda for recruitment from different source countries were either only signed recently or still in the process of being signed.

With Malaysia’s international borders reopening on April 1, industry players are still waiting for details of workers’ quarantine requirements upon arrival, saying there should be equal treatment for inbound travellers and foreign workers.

Budget hotel operators have also asked the government to include their facilities on the list of permissible venues for the quarantine of foreign workers.

“Any delay in recruitment, even for a day, is a loss to the industry.

“We are still waiting for the finalisation and guidelines from the government,” said Benjamin, a former CEO who has 42 years’ experience in the plantation industry.

He also called for the entire recruitment process to be expedited as “we are losing too much crop, which is a great loss for the industry and the government”.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said it would take a few months before foreign workers could start coming in as there are several stages in the application process.

“Given that applications have just opened, the interview process at the Human Resources Ministry’s One-Stop Centre would have also just started.

“We have not received any feedback on the approval status,” he said, adding that the process should be shortened.

Soh also said the current quarantine standard operating procedure (SOP) for bringing in workers may no longer be relevant with the country’s borders re-opening from April 1.

“The current SOP is not suitable to meet the influx of workers that are expected to come in. A clarification is required,” he added.

Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia second deputy secretary-general Datuk Jeffery Tan agreed, adding that there should be no double standards in the quarantine SOP for foreign workers and travellers.

“What difference does it make by allowing an inbound traveller to proceed without a quarantine compared to a foreign worker, given the same circumstances?” he said.

Quarantines, he added, incur additional cost that can be waived, given that an individual has been fully vaccinated and produced a negative Covid-19 test result.

Tan, however, stressed that the conditions for foreign workers had to be strictly upheld whereby only healthy and fully vaccinated individuals who produce a negative test result would be allowed into the country for work.

SME Association of Malaysia president Ding Hong Sing concurred, saying that various hidden costs during the quarantine period could further burden employers seeking to bring in foreign workers.

Both Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association vice-president C. Krishnan and Malaysian Indian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk Jawahar Ali said travellers and foreign workers should be subjected to the same entry regulations.

Should a quarantine be required, Krishnan said the price should be affordable as employers also need to pay for the workers’ Covid-19 tests on top of their quarantine expenses.

Malaysia Budget and Business Hotel Association deputy president Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel said the government should allow the use of budget hotels as quarantine centres for foreign workers.

“We have the facilities nationwide and are always ready to lend a hand in saving the economy. Since we are also transitioning towards an endemic stage beginning April 1, some adjustments could be made to the existing SOP for us to help,” he said, adding that all staff members of budget hotels nationwide were already fully vaccinated.

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