Due to this, private employment agencies here are in a limbo after discovering that they may not have the mandate to bring in foreign workers
According to Manpower Department (JTK) Sarawak representative Barnabas Ahjan, Section 119 of the Sarawak Labour Ordinance makes no mention of agencies, just employers.
“Anybody who wants to bring foreign workers in will have to obtain a labour licence from the director. When JTK issues the licence to employ, the employer is the one who looks for the workers,” Barnabas said during a meeting with agency representatives, their major clients and Indonesian Immigration Consul MT Satiawan.
However, private employment agencies were confused as they had been bringing in foreign workers for over a decade under this licence.
Due to this, JTK Sarawak cannot say if these agencies were operating legally or illegally, said Barnabas.
“This is why they need to update the policy,” said Augustine Chin, organising chairman for yesterday’s meeting, adding, “Employers want to use good agencies. If the agency is not even under the law, they are using illegal agencies and we (the agencies) do pay income tax.”
Chin said it was crucial for JTK to amend the ordinance to include agencies.
“We need support from the government because we are the ones who go to Indonesia to look for workers, not the employers.” He added that the state authority needed to do a postmortem and change its labour policy.
“As a Sarawakian, I feel ashamed when Indonesia tells me that my license cannot be used. On the other hand, the users/employers ask me to bring in workers. How do we do that without a licence?”
Chin said the policy had not been reviewed for the past 20 years.
“Policies are made by politicians. When a party loses a seat, the first thing they do is a postmortem. But when our state policy is no longer relevant, nobody does a postmortem, because the politicians are not interested in this field,” he said.
Chin, who is the managing director of APKA Group Sdn Bhd, said JTK exists in Sarawak to protect the locals to ensure that they can find jobs.
“But the fact is how many Sarawakians want to work in an estate as general workers? Zero. You give them RM1,000 a month they also don’t want. So why all the red tape about hiring foreign workers?
“Agencies also need a clear way to deal with matters like giving foreign maids proper training, and a process for dealing with runaways.”
Indonesian Immigration Consul MT Satiawan said issues regarding maids were always major.
“Maids are still professionals and employers pay a lot for one. But you have to bear in mind that if you shelter fugitives in your house, you will be fined,” he said, adding that the penalty for human trafficking is high.
Satiawan said as far as he was concerned he was willing to renew passports for foreign workers with minimal fuss, as long as they did not lie about their circumstances.
“I don’t want to make trouble for anyone,” he said.
There are around 200,000 Indonesian workers in Sarawak.
The Indonesian Consulate will call for a meeting with active employment agencies on the first week of July to further discuss the issue.– from Borneo Post, by Georgette Tan firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted on June 15, 2011, Wednesday