Saturday January 12, 2013
No to more foreigners
By NIGEL EDGAR
KUCHING: Oil palm plantation owners should invest in more research and development (R&D) to make plantations less labour-intensive.
The move would help to overcome the acute labour shortage in the industry in Sarawak, said Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary Andrew Lo.
“Rather than looking for more foreign workers, oil palm plantation owners should invest in R&D to make plantations less labour-intensive. They must not be addicted to foreign labour,” he told The Star yesterday.
“The decision by the state government to expand recruitment to foreign workers other than Indonesia is not in line with its objective to reduce their (foreign workers) number in the country.
“The impact is that it would not be beneficial to the country’s economy. These foreign workers would remit their earnings to outside the country; thus the so-called benefits would not be felt by the local economy,” he said.
Lo was responding to a statement by Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing that oil palm plantation owners in Sarawak could expand their labour recruitment to Bangladeshis and Myanmarese apart from Indonesians.
The Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners' Association (Soppoa) and Sarawak Timber Association had two years ago requested the state government to allow their members to recruit foreign workers other than Indonesians to address the labour shortage.
According to Soppoa, the state plantation sector was short of at least 20% in labour requirements and it could worsen due to the fast expansion of oil palm plantations.
Based on statistics, some 80% of the state’s plantation workers are Indonesians, and over the years it has become very costly to employ them.
In addition, Lo also pointed out that there were locals willing to work at plantations as long as owners and companies could offer them attractive incentives and benefits.
“Now that the RM800 monthly minimum wage has been implemented, the locals are prepared to work at plantation estates in the state,” he said.