"Employers should have been prepared"

KUALA LUMPUR: MORE than 500,000 foreign workers temporarily legalised under the 6P programme must return to their home countries next month and observe the compulsory 6-month cooling-off period before they can return to Malaysia.

Adopting a firm stance on the issue, the government has chided employers for not taking proactive measures to prepare for the “exodus”, despite being aware of the situation since 2011.


Immigration Department deputy director-general (operations) Datuk Sakib Kusmi said those with temporary work visit passes under the temporary Registration, Legalisation, Amnesty, Supervision, Enforcement and Deportation programme (abbreviated in Bahasa Malaysia to 6P) must honour the understanding agreed upon in 2011.

Under the 6P programme, illegal foreign workers in food and beverage sector were issued temporary work visiting passes lasting two years, while those working in manufacturing, construction and plantations received three years.

If the foreigners did not leave by January 2015, they would be deemed as having overstayed and could be arrested under Section 15(1)C of the Immigration Act.

“We are aware that there are some who are still living here with expired documents, but our policy is clear. If caught, they will be brought to court and jailed or be forced to pay a compound,” he said.

After paying the compound or completing their jail time, they would be held at the Immigration depot before they were put on a flight back to their home country.

Sakib said they could return to Malaysia for work after observing the cooling-off period of between six months and a year.

“The government believes it is actually better for the foreign workers to undergo the cooling-off period before returning. Employers should not be afraid of this because this is not something new, they already knew this beforehand,” he told the New Straits Times.

He said the government did not want the foreigners to remain in Malaysia continuously for more than five years, as they could then request for permanent resident status, with all the benefits provided to citizens.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said employers are aware they need to send these foreign workers back to their home countries after their temporary work visit passes expired.

“Many employers had legalised their illegal workers during the 6P programme and were given temporary work visit passes in 2011. They already knew their workers would need to be sent home within three years after the agreement," the deputy minister said, adding the government is standing its ground on this policy.

The 6P Programme, implemented in August 2011 by the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers, is aimed to reduce the number of illegal immigrants entering the country or those overstaying their work permits.

Yesterday, Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan cautioned that failure to extend the foreigners’ work permits would lead to the recruitment of unskilled workers to replace them, causing discontinuity and avoidable delay in economic activities in key industries. 

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CUEPACS: NOT FEASIBLE TO EXTEND WORK PERMITS

KUALA LUMPUR: Extending the work permits of foreign workers beyond the 6P programme deadline would only lead to more problems, said Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs).

Cuepacs president Datuk Azih Muda disagreed with extending foreign workers' permits as it would be counter-productive in efforts to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign workers.


“I hope employers and industry leaders will understand this effort, as this concerns the future of our nation. 

"With foreign workers taking over many jobs in all economic sectors, they would make it difficult for locals to get better-paid positions in future.”

Azih was commenting on the New Straits Times’ front-page article yesterday, which reported that around 500,000 foreign workers would have to leave Malaysia when their work permits expire in January 2015, as part of the 6P programme.

The Malaysian Employers’ Federation cautioned the impending loss of these workers would cause severe manpower shortage and disruption in key economic activity flow, thus resulting in businesses to become less competitive.

Malayan Agricultural Producers Association executive director Mohamad Audong said the agriculture and plantation sector needed foreign labour, failing which, companies in the sector would ground to a halt.

Locals, he said, were not interested in working in the sector. This had led to the reliance on foreigners to handle difficult tasks, such as harvesting and processing.

“If the government were to send back these foreign workers, it would cause employers to go one step back by hiring new foreign employees to fill the vacancies. These new employees will require training. The cost of hiring new people and training them will be very costly.”

“The foreign workers are already here. The government could just issue them new documentation to enable them to continue to work. Let them work and monitor them from time to time.”

Asked about the possibility of re-hiring these batch of foreign workers once they complete the mandatory six month cooling-off period in their respective home countries, Cuepacs' Azih said employers would not be able to wait that long.

He said companies in the agriculture sector were mostly government-linked companies and would not take a chance by waiting for the cooling-off period to end, as the workers could be snapped up by other companies once they return to their home countries.