FMM laments Govt’s flip-flop on foreign worker management policy

THE Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) has expressed disappointment over the Government’s back-pedalling of existing policies on foreign worker management matters. 

This is particularly as Putrajaya had moved the One-Stop Centre (OSC) for the recruitment of foreign workers back to the Home Affairs Ministry (MOHA) while the One-Channel System (OCS) to recruit domestic workers remained under the purview of the Human Resources Ministry (MOHR). 

“The industry is most disappointed with the constant flip-flopping and knee-jerk changes to foreign worker policies that have over the years proven to be very damaging especially on investor confidence,” FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai lamented. 

“The changes in policies have led to a lot of frustration amongst employers due to confusion in the processes, resulting in employers being given a run-around from ministry to ministry. 

“This is in addition to delays in the processing and approval which are very costly to employers as it impacts their ability to get workers on a timely basis and meet their order obligations.” 

The impact, Soh added, is even more damaging now as the country is just recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to the current global economic challenges which is expected to impact economic performance in 2023. 

Setting back business and economic recovery 

In February 2022, the management of foreign workers was handed over to MOHR from MOHA. 

This is given MOHR’s core role as the custodian of human resource and labour matters in the country and being the umbrella organisation that oversees the planning, management and development of the country’s manpower resources. 

According to Soh, the ministry had undertaken the management of foreign worker matters in the country in line with its overall charter to ensure the smooth operation of the country’s labour market. 

He added that over the past months, the ministry had also made the necessary adjustments and improvements to the entire process system based on feedback and inputs from the industry. 

“There is great concern that this flip-flop in the policy will set back business and economic recovery as there would be a recalibration of the policy and system by MOHA after taking over the foreign worker management,” Soh remarked. 

“Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had only just spoken about the need for efficiency of the Government machinery and the need to dismantle overlapping services towards supporting economic recovery and growth.  

“We see this flip-flop in the foreign worker management policy as a regression to his call for greater efficiency in the public service delivery.” 

Soh pointed out that while the Government had decided to move the OSC for the recruitment of foreign workers back to MOHA, the matter of fact is that MOHR still handles many aspects relating to the recruitment and employment of foreign workers. 

This is from a legislative and enforcement perspective in line with the recent amendments to the Employment Act 1955 in particular Section 60K which provides for employers to obtain approval from the director-general of Labour before hiring of any foreign workers. 

On top of this is the enforcement of the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities (Amendment) Act 2019 (Act 446) which is a mandatory requirement to be met for the recruitment of foreign workers along a host of other regulations and conditions including the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the source countries which is negotiated and signed by the MOHR on behalf of the Government.  

“We see this reversal in the foreign worker management policy now complicating the entire process, making the process more challenging as employers have to obtain approvals from two or more ministries/agencies for a single application which would lead to further delays in approvals and worker arrival,” Soh noted. 

“FMM stands firm that a single agency handling the entire foreign worker employment process from end-to-end (recruitment to repatriation) via a single online system is key to ensuring clarity/transparency and greater efficiency of the system and improving investor confidence.” 

Soh called on the Government to review the decision to split the role of foreign worker management between MOHA and MOHR. 

“The entire processing of labour demand must be handled by MOHR while MOHA should focus on security issues, issuance of the relevant visa and border control measures as done in other countries that have similar dependence on foreign workers to complement the country’s manpower requirements,” he said. – Dec 23, 2022 

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