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MTUC wants end to cheap foreign labour for oil palm industry

FMT News, Malaysia, 13 January 2018 - The union is alarmed over reports that the human resources ministry is sourcing Cambodian workers for the oil palm industry in Sarawak.

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) is alarmed over reports that the human resources ministry is sourcing Cambodian workers for the oil palm industry in Sarawak.

Its minister, Richard Riot Jaem, had reportedly said Indonesians no longer wanted to work in Sarawak as Indonesian plantations were paying wages on par with those offered by Malaysian plantations.

“This is indeed embarrassing as we used to be way ahead of Indonesia in economic development so much so that Indonesians came in droves to work here for higher wages,” said MTUC Sarawak secretary Andrew Lo.

He said this proved what MTUC had been saying for the past few decades that the country’s economic and labour policies were misguided and not sustainable.

Lo, in a statement, said local trade unions were stifled and employers had been exploiting workers, so much so that wages had fallen below productivity levels.

He said Sarawakians had been driven to seek employment in Peninsular Malaysia and overseas, and soon they might end up working in Indonesian plantations.

“We continue to pamper our industry players and now even assist them to source for cheap labour from other countries.”

Lo said the government should take holistic measures and restructure the economy and industry.

“The ministry should find ways to move away from oil palm to the digital economy in view of our low population base instead of taking the easy way out and just exploiting our land,” he said.

He said there was no point in opening so much land for oil palm and creating NCR (Native Customary Rights) issues, just to create low paying jobs for foreign workers.

“The Sarawak Oil Palm Owners Association’s stance to welcome ministry assistance is entirely expected, but it is myopic and not sustainable.”

He said industry players were only concerned about their own internal financials rather than developing the industry to be sustainable.

He added that they should set aside funds for research and development and also set up learning institutions to train local workers.

“However, all they do is pressure the state government to bring in foreigners to overcome the shortage of workers,” he said.

According to Lo, Indonesia is already on par with Malaysia, if not ahead, and if Malaysia refuses to restructure its economy, soon it will be left behind.

Source: http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/01/13/mtuc-wants-end-to-cheap-foreign-labour-for-oil-palm-industry/

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