SMEs upset with levy hike on temporary work permit
JOHOR BARU: The small and medium enterprises (SMEs) say the increase in levy for the extension of temporary foreign worker permit (PLKS) is an added burden.
However, another business group here lauds any move to reduce foreign labour in the country.
The founding president and immediate past president of SME Association of Malaysia, Teh Kee Sin, said the timing of the increase was not right, given that SMEs were already operating in a difficult business environment.
“It’s like rubbing salt into the wound as we have to deal with the weakening ringgit and unfavourable economic situation,” he said yesterday.
He was commenting on the gov- ernment’s move to increase the annual PLKS levy of RM1,850 to RM10,000 a year for those extending it for the next three years.
Last Wednesday, the Human Resources Ministry said the extension for PLKS holders would begin on Oct 1 but only for up to three years and the passes have to be renewed every year.
The rule only applies to foreign workers in formal sectors such as manufacturing, construction, plantation, services, agriculture, mining and quarries.
Teh also questioned the rationale behind the big jump in the PLKS as the foreign workers were hired for 3D (difficult, dirty and dangerous) jobs.
Teh urged the government to engage with the SMEs when making decisions or policies concerning SMEs.
“Given a choice, most of us will want to send our foreign workers back after three or five years, but can the government guarantee new foreign workers for us?” he asked.
SMEs, he added, had to wait for months before their applications for new foreign workers were approved, adding that the waiting periods disrupted operations.
Meanwhile, Johor Indian Business Association president P. Sivakumar said any measure to reduce the country’s dependency on foreign workers would be good.
He said the move should be ongoing as foreign workers were depriving locals of job opportunities as some employers preferred to hire foreigners.
“We have seen so many cases of foreign workers being abused by their employers, including long working hours with low pay.
“This has to stop as workers should be treated equally, whether they are locals are foreigners,” he said.
The government, said Sivakumar, should continue to give tax reliefs and incentives to local manufacturers to invest in automation in their operations.
“Automation is the only way forward for manufacturers if they want to reduce their dependency on foreign workers,” he said.
He said the move could result in better-paying jobs for locals, eventually reducing the outflow of billions of ringgit to migrant workers’ countries.