SMEs intending to hire workers from Bangladesh do not have much option other than to follow the terms and requirements as spelt out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two governments.
President of the Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Samenta) Kam Lian Hooi said that the employers do not have any alternative but to comply with most of the clauses in the MoU.
“Employers have been crying out for workers for some time now, especially given the recent surge of orders after the long period of lockdown in Malaysia,” said Kam.
However, the SME Association of Malaysia is holding out against paying airfares for newly-recruited Bangladeshi workers in addition to the cost of documentation involved.
The association holds the view that payment of airfares is optional, although the MoU says it is mandatory for employers to pay the fares.
The association’s secretary-general, Chin Chee Seong, said that the document was not a binding agreement and therefore, local employers could negotiate with the recruitment agencies on this matter, depending on the urgency of the need for foreign workers in their companies.
“If the SMEs need the workers urgently and can afford to pay, they can get the recruitment agencies in Dhaka to speed up the matter. But for others who can wait, the agents will get the workers to pay for their own air fare,” he told FMT.
Malaysia has removed a freeze on Bangladeshi workers imposed in 2018 with a new MoU signed on Dec 19 between the two countries.
Chin said employers will bear all the costs of documentation incurred in Malaysia after arrival, amounting to about RM4,385 per worker. “It is going to be a big burden on us as we are just recovering from problems caused by Covid-19. We had no choice but to agree to this as contained in the MoU. Due to local labour shortages, we need them badly. However, most employers hope these fees can be reduced,” he said.
The payments include the cost of a levy, visa, medical examination and Covid-19 test, health insurance guarantee, quarantine cost and a mobile phone SIM card.
The MoU states that employers must be responsible for return air fares from Dhaka to Kuala Lumpur, and the expenditure for the other services. The Bangladesh overseas employment ministry has also stated that free passage to and from Malaysia would be provided.
Chin said employers would seek flexibility in meeting a requirement that employers must not include allowances as part of the minimum wage of RM1,200.
“We are calling for more flexibility in enforcement and for employers to be given a reasonable period of time to comply. Most employers can only pay the minimum salary at the end of the month and pay allowances later. How quickly depends on the finances of the SMEs,” he said.