Govt to review MoU with 15 source countries on import of foreign labour [NSTTV]

PUTRAJAYA: The government will revisit all memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with 15 source countries on the hiring and recruitment of foreign workers.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the government will begin engaging with the relevant countries after receiving cabinet approval on the move.

Saifuddin, who spoke at a press conference after a meeting with Human Resources Minister Steven Sim at Kompleks Setia Perkasa today, said the MoU should be a dynamic agreement and not a static one.

"In the meeting, we saw that there is a need to revisit and scrutinise the MoUs with all 15 source countries.

"The MoUs comprise numerous details including fees, cost, contract agreements and healthcare, among others.

"An MoU is a dynamic, not a static contract. We have agreed to revisit the details with the source countries," he said.

Asked whether details of the MoUs will be made public, he said it will depend on certain criteria.

He however did not disclose the criteria.

Saifuddin said 77 per cent of the two million foreign workers in Malaysia with temporary work permits are from Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nepal, spread out over five sectors.

He said to date, only the plantation and agriculture sectors were facing a deficit of workers.

Malaysia currently takes in foreign workers from 15 countries, namely Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, the Philipines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, India, and Indonesia.

Saifuddin said that the government will allow employers to transfer quotas to other employers in sectors facing worker shortages, including the plantations and agriculture sectors.

He said the joint committees involving the ministries aims to resolve the issue of shortages.

"That's why we're allowing for workers to change employers. This means that when one sector is full, they can opt to transfer (the quotas and workers) to other sectors," he said, adding he had met with Plantations and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Johari Ghani earlier to have a clearer view on the matter.

"We have 442,000 hectares of rubber plantations and we are the net importers, importing about 700,000 metric tonnes for gloves and condoms manufacturing.

"We also have about 5.4 million hectares of palm oil estates. In the plantation sectors, 30 per cent of the workers are harvesters and they need to harvest every two weeks.

"When we calculate the two million workers, these two sectors are facing a large deficit," he said.

Saifuddin said that the government will also shorten the foreign worker recruitment process to 15 months and 23 days, as opposed to the current 29 months and 13 days.

He said this will be done via cutting down the duration for certain processes.

This, he said, will include levy payment periods being reduced to 15 days from the current 30 days, and a reduction in the period to issue temporary work permits, from 15 days to 30 days.

He added that there has been no discussion yet on lifting the current freeze on foreign workers quota.

On Mar 17 last year, the quota application and approval for foreign workers including through the Foreign Worker Employment Relaxation Plan were suspended for all sectors.

Then-Human Resources Minister V. Sivakumar had said this is to enable employers, who have already been granted quotas, to start making plans for the immediate entry of the foreign workers.

However, employers were given up to 18 months to bring in foreign workers to Malaysia after paying a levy.

It is understood that some employers might have brought in the workers with or without jobs to meet the deadline.

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