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FMM: Anti-Ali Baba law critical to deal with high number of undocumented workers

FMM In The News: THE EDGE, KUALA LUMPUR, January 2, 2024 - The proposed Anti-Ali Baba law by the government, which is intended to act against Malaysians who illegally rent out their business licences to foreign workers without meeting certain conditions, will be a critical factor in dealing with the issue of high numbers of undocumented workers in the country, according to the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM).

In a statement on Tuesday, FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said the influx of foreign workers for purposes other than employment is indeed a cause for concern and a national problem, which must be dealt in a comprehensive and transparent manner in order to tackle the issue effectively.

“Equally critical to addressing the issue of undocumented workers in the country would be to ensure a credible recruitment system and holistic enforcement activities.

“The proposed legislation should deter our local businessmen from misusing the privileges given by the government for locals to operate businesses, as well as deter foreigners from running businesses illegally, including those foreign workers who run away from their legal employers to run their own business,” he said.

Soh said the main reason for the influx of undocumented foreign workers in the country stemmed from the previous policy of allowing outsource companies/agents to bring in foreign workers as outsourced workers, and not as direct workers for industries.

He said the other factor contributing to the influx of undocumented workers is the weak enforcement, which had allowed the undocumented workers to remain here for prolonged periods and eventually led to many running their own business, which under the domestic laws is not allowed.

“Legal workers also abscond from their legal employers when lured with promises of higher wages and better working conditions,” he said.

“Enforcement against the parties involved and responsible in these activities must be beefed up,” he said.

Soh said it is unfair to blame employers for worker abscondment, as employers are under tremendous pressure to ensure that they adhere to strict labour practices with the increasing spotlight and significant intensification of global action against forced labour and human trafficking, as well as the rising adoption of environmental, social and governance elements in business operations.

“Any unhealthy business practice would have a damaging impact and jeopardise the competitiveness of our manufacturers in the global supply chain, and significantly threaten and damage the company’s reputation, investor relations as well as concurrently tarnish the entire sector’s and country’s standing in the global arena.

“The collective steps towards addressing undocumented workers and implementation of the other labour reform initiatives including the multi-tier levy mechanism would be critical to the success of reducing dependency on foreign workers and towards moving to a high-income status nation,” said Soh.

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