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FMM objects govt’s decision to halt foreign worker quota approvals

Publish date: Mon, 27 Mar 2023, 07:47 PM

KUALA LUMPUR (March 27): The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) is against the government’s decision to temporarily suspend foreign worker quota applications and approvals, as it will disrupt business operations. 

FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai disagreed with the Human Resources Ministry’s rationale for the decision, which is to allow employers who have obtained quota approvals to make the necessary arrangements to bring in their workers, as “hold ups” in processes would deprive other employers. 

“The government must recognise that the quota approvals are valid for an 18-month period from the date of approval giving industries the necessary time to bring in workers, sometimes in batches to cater for the changing production needs,” Soh said in a statement on Monday (March 27).

“Having a freeze in the application and approval until all the 995,396 approved quota workers have arrived would deprive others of getting workers, as well as those who have workers returning, from replacing their workers in order to sustain their business operations for the next 18 months,” he added. 

He said employers who have received approvals for their quotas may not necessarily bring in their workers immediately due to a delay in the process of sourcing for workers in the source countries, and delays in the issuance of the calling visa by the Immigration Department, given the influx in approvals currently. 

There is also a lag in the mobilisation of workers due to issues at the source countries, including flight scheduling and flight capacity issues to cater for the large number of workers expected to be mobilised, Soh said. 

Besides that, he added that there is a slowdown in demand, resulting in less urgency to bring in workers immediately, especially by those who obtained their approval prior to the Foreign Worker Recruitment Relaxation Plan.

Soh said the government should have engaged with the industry to understand the situation prior to making the decision to suspend the application and approvals and, where appropriate, provide employers with the necessary assistance and facilitation.

Human Resources Minister V Sivakumar announced the suspension on March 18. During then, he said that 995,396 foreign worker employment quota applications had been approved across various sectors, namely manufacturing (387,122), construction (342,106), services (143,568), plantation (76,325), agriculture (45,899), as well as mining and quarrying (376).

While the manufacturing sector has the highest number of approvals, Soh said it envisaged that the sector will continue to need workers to fill the manpower gaps. He said the sector experienced a sharp 44% drop to 391,831 foreign workers in 2021, compared to 697,124 foreign workers in 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Soh said the manufacturing sector also has new investments that would still require some level of low skilled manpower for certain processes within its operations. 

“The industry therefore appeals for the government to resume the foreign worker application and approval to cater for market-driven worker needs,” he said.

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