PETALING JAYA | Malaysian workers fear they may lose their jobs as more foreigners are brought in after the government relaxed rules at the request of employers.

Workers of factories in the northern states claim their job contracts would not be continued as foreign workers would be brought in to replace them.

A source told The Star that there were employers who would offer longer contract periods to foreign workers – up to five years – while locals are only offered six months.

“Many factories in Penang dealt with recruitment agencies and locals were employed on contract.

“When foreign workers start to arrive, the locals will be terminated. Many of them will be out of a job next month,” said the source, a factory supplier based in Penang.

On Jan 18, Human Resources Minister V. Sivakumar announced that 500,000 foreign workers are gradually being brought into the country via the Foreign Workers Employment Relaxation Plan, which aims to address the shortage of manpower.

The plan allows employers to hire workers from 15 source countries without having to meet quota requirements and employment eligibility prerequisites.

National Association of Human Resources Malaysia (Pusma) president Zarina Ismail confirmed that the association had received complaints from workers regarding the issue.

She said any such move would be unfair to local workers as they would have to look for new jobs amid the economic uncertainty.

“We encourage them to formally file reports with the Labour Department if their employers are terminating their contracts to replace them with foreign workers,” she told The Star.

Zarina also said companies are now allowed to recruit as many foreign workers as they liked because there is no fixed quota.

She said Pusma would raise the matter with the Human Resources Ministry.

“The workers are now feeling insecure, fearing they might lose their jobs as employers prefer foreigners following the recruitment relaxation,” she added.

National Society of Skilled Workers secretary-general Mohammad Rizan Hassan said there was a rising trend of employers who ignore hiring locals following the announcement of the new scheme.

He said that almost 90% of industries were not recruiting locals into direct labour positions – a term which refers to roles such as technicians and similar positions.

“Many local workers did not get their contracts extended, while a significant number were not confirmed in their employment,” he said.He claimed employers cited “slow economic growth” to justify their actions.

“However, we are aware that they are waiting for foreign workers to replace the locals,” he added.

Mohammad Rizan said the issue must be studied to ensure local workers, especially the youth, would have a place in the labour force.

He said that if the problem was not addressed, around 500,000 youths would be affected.

“We ask those who are affected by unfair terminations to lodge complaints with the Labour Department,” he added.

At press time, the Human Resources Ministry had yet to respond to The Star’s request for comments.