KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 ― The Sarawak government is still allowing firms to recruit foreign workers despite the moratorium imposed by Putrajaya, state Land and Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing said.
Masing explained that the plantation industry in Sarawak was facing a serious manpower shortage and that between 30,000 and 35,000 workers were needed to cushion the RM1 billion losses sustained from uncollected fresh fruit bunches (FBB) annually.
“The state government has not yet adopted the freeze, so applications are still open to hire foreign workers,” he was quoted as saying by the Borneo Post today.
Masing said Sarawak has its own source of migrant workers apart from what the federal government provides.
He was also reported as saying that it has become a challenge to employ Indonesian workers, noting that these workers prefered working in their homeland and staying close to their families.
“We don't have enough workers in the oil palm industry, and we cannot afford to lose RM1 billion a year due to uncollected FFB,” Masing said in justifying the divergence from Putrajaya’s decision.
At the moment, Masing said the state had about 103,000 workers in the industry, of which 22 per cent were locals while the rests were foreign labourers, mostly Indonesians.
On non-governmental organisations condemning the move to hire foreign labourers, Masing reportedly said that it was not done by choice, noting that locals did not want to do the 3D (dirty, difficult and dangerous) jobs.
He also urged these NGOs to attend a seminar, entitled “Addressing Manpower Needs of the Oil Palm Industry in Sarawak 2016” on March 30 to share solutions to the shortage of manpower in the industry.
Sarawak and Sabah have autonomy over immigration in their respective states.