BY DATO’ ABDULLAH SANI
Recently, the Director General of Immigration, Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali mentioned that there are merely 85,000 illegal immigrants (PATI) who are registered under the temporary foreign worker e-Card programme.
The number is far from the target set by the government which is around 400,000 to 600,000 PATI.
The statistics reported by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) showed, in reality, the influx of illegal immigrants has reached 5 million people.
In spite of that, the Human Resource Ministry indirectly said that there are only 4 million PATI in this country (referring to a statement relating to 7 out of 10 foreign workers being illegal, it was also stated that there are only 1.9 million legal ones).
- In view of the increasingly critical situation, my opinion is that the e-Card programme is a futile effort unless there is an employee policy reform and government enforcement.
Both aspects are inter-related in addressing the PATI influx problem, at the same time they provide better welfare for employees and citizens.
- Employee policy reform is the responsibility of Federal Government, Employers and Unions. The main problem in this country’s employment policy is the failure to enforce a minimum wage.
Many employers think that a minimum wage should only be implemented for local employees while foreign workers are allowed to receive lower salaries.
Hence, employers would rather employ foreign workers due to the lower labour costs. The worst part is that there are no Employee Provident Fund (EPF) and SOCSO contributed for them, making it difficult for the government to check the amount of salaries paid to them.
- Employee policy in developed countries, in Australia for example, emphasize minimum wage not only for the local workers but also for foreign workers.
Equality in salary and welfare between local and foreign workers ensures healthy competition, and employers may choose to hire locals on the basis of nationalism or foreigners for their job reputation – irrespective of labor costs between the two.
- The fact is, Malaysia fails to implement this policy causing employers to rather choose foreign workers even if they are illegal immigrants due to lower costs and better loyalties (if they refuse to work, employers threaten to divulge their illegal status to the authorities and they face the possibility of being sent back home, although it was the employers who underpaid and neglected their welfare in the first place).
How are these foreign workers supposed to escape from these when they are not protected by employees’ union?
- In addition, the Umno BN government is quite weak when it comes to law enforcement. What with that the nation’s entry points said to be conceded that 5 million PATI were allowed to enter freely, and now having to create a programme to register them as temporary legal workers.
What is the Malaysian employee industry’s real direction? Does the government genuinely welcomes PATI which is also related to corrupt and cronyism practices? How is it that the government is said to be implementing PATI ‘whitening’ programme when their entry into this country is not prevented in the first place?
In my opinion, the ‘whitening’ programme will not succeed. Employers prefer to manipulate illegal immigrants on their illegitimate status for the sake of profit.
These illegal immigrants will not voluntarily register themselves due to threats from employers and there are no unions to protect them. I think that the programme deadline this June 30 is pointless if the government is not firm in enforcing the law.
Perhaps beyond this date, the Umno BN government will ‘recycle’ the same programme without any action to prevent PATI entry, repatriate illegal immigrants to their home countries, reform employee policy and punish employers who do not comply with the regulations.
*Dato’ Abdullah Sani is Kuala Langat Member of Parliament
Employee Bureau Chairman
Peoples’ JUSTICE Party