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Johari: “If you are not out to dupe foreign workers, then you have nothing to fear”

KUALA LUMPUR: Plantations and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani has doubled down on the proposal for the government to get tough with errant firms that deceive foreign workers with jobs and leave them in the lurch once they arrive in Malaysia.

He said the government must address the longstanding issue to safeguard the country’s image from being branded as a haven for human trafficking and forced labour.

Johari – who has proposed a fine of up to RM30,000 per worker to be imposed against companies that fail to provide jobs for foreign workers that they bring in, said:

“It is imperative that government addresses this prolonged issue of foreign workers deceived into coming here for work.

“If it keeps happening, our country’s image will be tarnished and we risk being seen as a country that allows human trafficking or forced labour to happen without any repercussions against those responsible.”

Breaking down issues surrounding the conundrum involving foreign workers here, Johari said it was paramount that the group’s recruitment processes were further tightened.

This, he said included only allowing companies to get quotas of foreign workers when they apply for the manpower themselves.

“The issue here is there’s a possibility that some companies are asking for quotas of foreign workers without actually having any opening for jobs. …they are just trying to make money by selling quotas to other companies.

“This is deemed as human trafficking or forced labour,” he said, adding agencies or employers that are not involved in such practices should not be worried about being fined by the authorities.

He said companies which applied for foreign workers’ quota needed to make sure there were jobs readily available to be filled, as soon as the workers reach our shores.

Johari, who was also formerly Finance Minister II, said foreign workers who ended up without jobs upon arrival in Malaysia, had become a major burden on the country’s resources.

“More often than not, these poor workers cannot afford to go back to their country and end up soaking up resources in terms of subsidies and healthcare, besides also creating other social problems.”

Johari said his proposal for irresponsible companies and agencies to be fined was also meant as a deterrence against unscrupulous parties from exploiting the system.

On the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai’s objection to the proposal, Johari reiterated that those not out to exploit foreign workers have nothing to fear and should not be worried about getting fined.

“FMM cannot point fingers because agencies cannot apply for quotas without first getting demands from companies.

“If there is proof that agencies are using fake documents to artificially increase the quota asked for, then it is the agencies that would be fined heftily.

“Again, I stress that companies which do not exploit the recruitment process will not be fined and should not be worried.”

Johari who made the proposal during Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting that discussed this quandary, said the issue had been impacting all sectors, including the plantation sector, which is facing a labour shortage.

The Titiwangsa Member of Parliament had then said that the proposed fines commensurate with the offences committed and would also cover the costs of repatriating the foreign workers, which is currently borne by the government.

Johari said he was compelled to present the proposal following media reports on Dec 25 regarding the detention of 171 Bangladeshi workers who were detained when they turned up at the Bayu Damai police station in Kota Tinggi Johor to lodge a report against their agent who allegedly failed to provide them with jobs.

Source : NST BUSINESS TIMES

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