Transparency and accountability are absent in foreign labour recruitment
Is it true that the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Malaysia and Bangladesh to recruit workers might be derailed from being implemented?
Is it true that the selection of 25 recruiting companies each with 10 sub-agents is not agreeable to the Bangladesh government?
The MoU signed in December 2021 aims to facilitate the recruitment of thousands of Bangladesh workers to address the acute labour shortage in the country.
Presently, Malaysia recruits labour from about 13 countries.
While no quota has been imposed on other countries, it is not clear why the need to shortlist only 25 companies in Bangladesh.
Is it not known the criteria used in shortlisting these agencies and why others were not included.
There are hundreds of recruitment agencies in the Bangladesh.
The excluded companies are aggrieved that the syndicated option of 25 agencies means that labour cost of recruitment will increase to four or five times the present cost of RM5,900 per worker.
In other words, labour cost will dramatically increase for employers in Malaysia.
However, knowing the employers, the cost will be transferred to the workers themselves. It is inevitable that the syndication of labour recruitment might be financially ruinous to those recruited.
The MoU allows for Malaysia to recruit workers from Bangladesh for five years, until 2026.
Recruitment of labour was suspended under the PH government in 2018. Before this, only ten agencies were recognised for the recruitment.
However, in the post-pandemic period, labour shortage has become a serious concern both to the government and employers. The tempo and intensity of foreign labour recruitment have increased in the last one year or so.
Employers due to labour shortage have to size down their production. Foreign labour recruitment has become a norm in Malaysia.
Countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh are heavily relied upon for labour supply. It is not so much the heavy demand for labour, but the process of recruitment itself.
Until today, the Ministry of Human Resources has not rendered transparent the MoU with Bangladesh as well as other countries. It is not known who are the mysterious individuals here in Malaysia and Bangladesh the brains behind the recruitment.
It would be interesting to know whether there are agents here in Malaysia facilitating the recruitment process. If there are more one thousand recruitment agencies in Bangladesh then why allow 25 to be shortlisted.
The question is: how was this done and what were the procedures used to shortlist them.
Was there an open tender process in the selection of the 25 companies?
What about the labour costs that might be incurred and that might be invariably passed on to the poor and destitute workers?
Are Malaysian employers aware of the secrecy behind the recruitment process especially on matters of increased labour costs?
Even if the MoU has been signed and recruitment deal finalised, there rumours saying that the government of Bangladesh might not give its consent.
Not only are other labour recruitment companies not happy about the shady deal, the officials of the concerned ministry in Bangladesh might not be happy.
I think the human resource minister M. Saravanan might be doing his best to address the problem of labour shortage in the country, but Saravanan must come out clean and transparent on the matter.
There is no point saying that the government is not in the habit of making the MoU public and others. As an elected member of the Parliament, he has duty to the public.
Taken as a whole, the foreign labour recruitment process in the country is replete with allegations of corruption, financial misdeeds and the improper treatment of workers.
While recruitment agencies and employers benefit immensely from bringing labour over, the poor workers are subjected to inhuman treatment.
The debt bondage they incur will permanently disable them from becoming free human beings.
It is no mistake that foreign labour recruitment reinforces the existence and continuation of forced labour in the country.
One thing is sure, Malaysia might not be moving away from forced labour but reinforcing its pervasive existence.