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KUALA LUMPUR: The Manpower Department has questioned the motive of Tenaganita chief Irene Fernandez in alleging that foreign workers are not safe in Malaysia and that they experience discrimination by their employers.
Department director-general Datuk Sheikh Yahya Sheikh Mohamed said yesterday Fernandez’s criticism of the government’s treatment of foreign workers, which was published in The Jakarta Post, was dangerous and could harm the economy.
In a strongly-worded statement, he asked if her goal was to see Malaysia in chaos, with its economy stifled and the people unemployed. Sheikh Yahya said Fernandez should not have made statements that contradicted the country’s policies and laws, as this put Malaysia in a bad light, implying it had failed to protect the rights and welfare of foreign workers.
“Malaysia, as a rapidly developing country, is very much dependent on foreign workers. Her statements are dangerous and have repercussions. “She should not have made such statements, especially in Indonesia, without facts to corroborate them.”
Citing the Employment Act 1955, Yahya said the law stated the rights and responsibilities of employers of local and foreign workers.
"Both are entitled to the same rights. It is also mandatory for employers who hire foreign workers to report to the nearest labour office within 14 days from the date of hiring, as stated under Section 60K of the bill. This is to ensure the workers are protected and not harmed."
He said the department and Human Resources Ministry had adopted measures to ensure foreign workers were protected, including monitoring employers' records and enforcement of laws on errant employers.
He said of the 53,055 employers screened last year, 106 were fined more than RM200,000 in total and 136 paid fines amounting to RM414,000.
"Last year, enforcement officers inspected 2,854 premises that had foreign workers and 328 were found to have violated the laws."
He said under Section 26 of the Employee Compensation Act 1952, employers must buy insurance for workers and pay due damages if they were injured at work.
On allegations that female foreign workers were exploited, abused and raped, he said these were exaggerated and gave a false impression of the country's state of affairs.
"How can she say the country is not safe when efforts were made to care for the welfare of foreign workers?"
He said the Private Employment Agencies Act and a memorandum of understanding between Malaysia and Indonesia were the best mechanisms to ensure foreign workers were protected.