Thursday, June 27

‘Sarawak’s palm oil industry in dire need of workers’

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KUCHING: The Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (Soppoa) yesterday said it fully supports Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot on the labour shortage issue which has been plaguing the state’s palm oil industry for years.

Riot recently reiterated the serious concern of labour shortage for the palm oil industry in Sarawak, further informingof the stringent conditions imposed on companies with regards to hiring workers from Bangladesh.

These include advertising for locals to fill vacancies to ensure that local jobseekers are well-informed of such employment opportunities, and are given priority for employment.

This has been the standard practice of the palm oil industry in Sarawak, Soppoa said, adding that other conditions include the requirement of the company to have a minimum paid-up capital of RM 1 million and with the proper land lease documents from the state government and to possess valid license from Malaysian Palm Oil Board ( MPOB).

“As stated by the Minister, for the palm oil industry to hire foreign workers from either Indonesia or Bangladesh, the companies must fulfill various conditions including placing advertisements in radio, print media and with the Labor Department Sarawak, and to undertake commitments for proper housing, bank guarantees and other labor law requirements stipulated for engaging these workers,” said a Soppoa spokesperson.

“It is obvious that all these obligations in hiring foreign workers, including levies and other incidental recruitment costs will be added costs for companies involved in hiring foreign workers in the industry.”

Every company in the Sarawak palm oil industry would prefer to hire locals for the jobs if there are workers available, Soppoa stated.

Currently, a substantial number of locals are employed as executives, field supervisors and at other management levels in the plantation industry here while many others are employed as skilled and semi-skilled workers in the palm oil mills and factories.

Another contributing reason is that many NCR land owners are starting their own estates and they in turn also look for workers in their farms.

“Sarawak’s other mega projects at Similaju Industrial Park, the oil and gas industry and others are also attracting locals to work there which substantially reduces the number of locals available.

“Hence, the plantation companies have no choice but to turn to hire foreign workers to overcome the worker shortage.

“Remember too, that all these companies are subject to the country and state’s laws in hiring of workers and so minimum wage policies are applicable,” the spokesperson added.

Soppoa firmly believes that NGOs and others should seek to discuss with the relevant ministries and agencies to come to a better understanding of the issue relating to shortage and hiring of foreign workers so as not to further create a negative image of Sarawak in the eyes of the world.

“The industry is ever willing to discuss with any organization to alleviate the shortage of workers in Sarawak and fully encourage participation of locals to fulfill these vacancies where possible.

“This is a win-win formula for everyone concerned and will lead to a prosperous Sarawak in line with the government’s aim and strategy of developing the state.”