Tuesday, October 15

Baru calls for caution in recruiting foreigners


KUCHING: Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian cautions the state government to be very cautious and stringent in importing foreign workers into the state.

Baru in conversation with Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How (left) at the State Legislative Assembly complex yesterday.

He said Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot’s statement that out of 6.7 million foreign workers in the country, only 2.1 million have permits, confirmed his fear on the influx of foreign workers into the state.

“If this is not controlled, we will face problems in the future. Sabah is a good example and now the nation is in that danger,” he told a press conference after the morning session of the State Legislative Assembly sitting here yesterday.

Earlier, in his debate on the state Budget 2015, Baru raised his concern on the government’s plan to bring up to 12,000 Bangladeshi workers to work in oil palm plantations in the state.

“In 2011, the Industrial Development Minister announced that Sarawak would be willing to recruit skilled workers from India to expedite the implementation of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

“We were also told that there were over 100,000 illegal foreign labourers in Sarawak. It is well known that the dams were built by foreign workers mainly from China.

“On the other hand, it is estimated that there are 100,000 Sarawakians working in Peninsula Malaysia and abroad.

“There is clearly a mismatch of skills and wages with jobs.”

Baru said although the government is trying to play catch-up by promoting technical and vocational courses to students so that employment opportunities in SCORE may be taken up by Sarawakians, it appears the state will not be able to produce graduates at a fast enough rate, given its late start.

“I am interested to know how many skilled workers our technical schools have produced so far and what the shortfall will be in the next five years that will still need to be taken up by foreign workers.”

In the plantation sector, he said it is widely known that the wages are so low that Sarawakians are not able to make a decent living if they take up these jobs, adding that although the minimum wage is RM800, it is not clear that this is being enforced.

“Sarawakians are unable to benefit from the development in their own state.

“The sad fact is that many of them have been forced to give up their lands to plantations and development such as SCORE
and the dams and yet, these projects do not offer them any employment.

“There is instead an exodus of Sarawakians to slightly greener pastures in West Malaysia and an outflow of funds from Sarawak as foreign workers remit their incomes home.”

Baru said the plantations are lamenting the effect of minimum wage on their profit margin but they are huge profitable operators and it is up to them to manage their operations more efficiently so that they can pay decent wages to enable locals to take up jobs in plantations.

“I would be grateful for information from the government on the extent of the minimum wage being enforced in Sarawak.”