Malaysiakini Letter

Migrant workers are not expendable units of production

Joseph Paul Maliamauv  |  Published:

LETTER | The policy to abolish the services of more than 100 outsourcing companies in recruiting and managing migrant workers would normally be welcome news for civil society organisations such as Tenaganita, which have consistently called for outsourcing companies to be banned or at least to be much more stringently regulated. 

Unfortunately, recent reports about the manner in which the policy to ban outsourcing entities is being implemented raise serious cause for concern.

The ban on the services of the outsourcing companies will go into effect on March 31. Companies currently using the outsourced migrant workers are expected to absorb them as direct employees. 

Those who are not absorbed by the companies are supposed to be repatriated by the outsourcing entities who are technically the employers of these workers. 

The status of the migrant workers who are still in the country after March 31, (without being absorbed by the client companies) will be changed to “illegal migrant workers." Why should that be so?

These migrant workers came into the country legally, brought in by government-appointed outsourcing companies who have had a good run, making handsome profits, and now, through a policy edit, they run the risk of becoming undocumented – no human being can be 'illegal' – migrant workers, through no fault of theirs.

The manner in which this policy of banning outsourcing companies is unfortunately typical of the Human Resources Ministry, which seems to be fast gaining a reputation for policy flip-flops reminiscent of 'Malaysia Lama'.

Worse still, the Human Resources Ministry will be guilty of perpetrating a serious injustice on the thousands of hardworking, innocent outsourced migrant workers.

It is estimated that there are more than 26,000 migrant workers involved in the outsourcing system, and not many of them have been absorbed into the companies where they had been working.

It would therefore appear that thousands of these outsourced workers have a choice of either going home (if they are sent back) or becoming undocumented. 

It should be noted that almost all these workers would have incurred huge debts to pay the recruitment costs involved in coming to work in Malaysia in order to earn enough to build a better life for themselves and their loved ones. 

They would have had a reasonable expectation of working here for a few years, to repay their debts and to earn some money, doing work which few Malaysians are interested in. That expectation is now being cruelly denied, through no fault of theirs.

On the other hand if they do not go back home (or are not sent back - it is not clear who pays for the repatriation expenses), they are condemned to a life of constant fear of being hunted down and arrested by immigration authorities, time in prison, whipping, detention and deportation and being blacklisted.

Has the Human Resources Ministry taken these factors into consideration when implementing the laudable policy of banning the services of outsourcing companies? 

It would seem that the present government is no different from the previous one in treating migrant workers as expendable units of production, to be used and discarded according to the whims and fancies of policymakers. 

These migrant workers have absolutely no say or control over their own fate; it is all decided – unjustly – by Putra Jaya.

Another question that needs to asked is: Who is going to do the work that is currently being done by these outsourced workers who will be sent back? 

They were not here on a vacation, they were productively employed. Who is going to fill the gap when these workers are gone?

We expect better from the government of Malaysia Baru.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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