The threat to cane employers for using illegal foreign labour is unlikely to motivate businesses to register with Putrajaya’s rehiring and amnesty scheme for undocumented workers because of the high cost per worker, says the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF).
For one, it is hard to catch employers red-handed with illegal workers at their premises, said its executive director, Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan.
And the rehiring programme itself was unpopular, he said, because there was no guarantee that workers would get permits even after registration and payment of the RM1,300 fee.
MEF said it viewed the rehiring programme as more of an application scheme instead of a means to certify and legalise undocumented foreign workers.
“I doubt very much that this (caning) threat will lead to droves of employers going tomorrow to the Immigration Department,” Shamusuddin said when asked to respond to the government’s plans to impose caning as a punishment for employers who harboured undocumented workers and did not rehire them under the programme.
Most employers who have signed up under the rehiring programme were those with three to four foreign workers each, he added.
“It’s not the big companies with their dozens of workers who are going for this. It’s the small players. So this means most of the big companies use legal workers.”
Shamsuddin said the cost to enter the rehiring programme was actually higher than the advertised RM1,300 per worker.
“Upfront, you have to pay an RM800 fee and RM500 penalty for each worker you have. This is still an application process and you will not automatically get a permit.
“If your application is successful, you have to pay the foreign worker levy and RM400 in agency fees. So it’s quite expensive.
“We’ve predicted before that very few employers would join the programme and this is currently happening.”
Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday employers using illegal workers have been given until June 30 to register with the scheme.
English daily the New Straits Times (NST) also reported that the Immigration Department would push for caning for employers caught with illegal workers after the June deadline.
According to NST, some 3,700 employers and 13,000 illegal migrants have registered with the rehiring programme which was launched on February 15. The number of illegal foreign workers in the country has been estimated at about 1.5 to two million.
Shamsuddin said under the Immigration Act, only employers convicted of harbouring more than five illegal foreign workers could be penalised with canning.
To date, only one employer has been canned under the law, he said.
“Usually, illegals get wind of an Immigration Department operation and they don’t show up for work. If they are detained away from work, there is nothing to connect them to their employer.” – March 13, 2016.