Malaysia is leveraging on a government-to-government platform with Bangladesh to expedite new hires as the plantation, rubber glove manufacturing and furniture sectors are in dire need of workers. "Last week, the Cabinet has directed Human Resources Minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem to speed up the process of sourcing new hires from Bangladesh," said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong. (File pix)

SUBANG: Malaysia is leveraging on a government-to-government platform with Bangladesh to expedite new hires as the plantation, rubber glove manufacturing and furniture sectors are in dire need of workers.

"Last week, the Cabinet has directed Human Resources Minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem to speed up the process of sourcing new hires from Bangladesh," said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.

"My ministry is coordinating with relevant authorities to ease this problem so that you can meet the export orders," he said after officiating the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Furniture Industry Association (KLSFIA) 60th Anniversary and Merger Gala Dinner, here last Friday.

Mah also assured furniture manufacturers that his ministry is looking at new measures to facilitate adequate supply of rubberwood at competitive pricing.

Mah said he is liaising with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to facilitate furniture manufacturers to exhibit at the soon-to-be-completed Malaysian International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MITEC) that spans across one million sq ft.

In February, the Home Ministry reportedly suspended the recruitment of foreign workers, only to partially allow hiring of new foreign workers to four sectors including manufacturing in May.

To date, furniture manufacturers such as members of KLSFIA said they continue to face labour shortage. They have repeatedly appealed to the government that the sudden policy change in the hiring of foreign workers was bad for business.

The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (Margma) have also said that disruption in new hire of foreign workers is jeopardising Malaysia's position as the number one maker of medical and surgical gloves globally.

Last year, Malaysia's 106 medical glove-making factories churned out some 120 billion pieces for exports and this brought in RM13.1 billion.

“As global demand for medical gloves expands, we need more workers; it is our fervent hope the government ensure availability of new foreign worker hire,” Margma president Denis Low Jau Foo reportedly said.

“We are duly worried by not being able to meet global demand for this medical device. There is an element of humanity here as the medical gloves we make are a necessity for doctors to save lives,” Low added.

According to data provided by the Statistics Department, the manufacturing sector contributed RM626 billion last year, thus making it a key economic driver, which also accounted for half of Malaysia’s RM1.16 trillion economy and more than 80 per cent of RM780 billion total exports.

Separately, the Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA) reiterated its members continue to face acute shortage of workers and they are experiencing huge losses.

Currently, Sarawak has 1.4 million hectares planted with oil palms. According to the Labour-Land Ratio of one man to 8ha, SOPPOA members require 175,000 workers.

But data from Malaysian Palm Oil Board and the Sarawak Labour Department reveal only 108,000 workers are employed in the Sarawak plantation industry, comprised of 86,000 foreign workers and 22,000 locals.

"We face shortfall of over 67,000 workers. Loss of fruits left unharvested leads to billions in revenue losses to estates and the government in terms of taxes collection," it said in a statement last Friday.

If new hire of foreign workers continues to be disrupted and lacking, SOPPOA regretfully expressed Sarawak's palm oil industry may not be able to meet the government’s target growth of 8 per cent per annum to achieve 2 million hectares of planted area by 2020.