Plantation Firms in Sarawak to Pay More to Recruit New Indonesian Workers

15% more in wages to recruit new Indonesian workers

KUCHING: Plantation companies in Sarawak will have to pay about 15% more in wages to recruit new Indonesian workers soon.

Indonesian consul/counsellor Rafail Walangitan (pic)

said the minimium daily wages of Indonesian plantation workers in

Sarawak would be raised to RM22 from RM19 in three months’ time. The

last revision by RM3 a day (from RM16) was in 2010.

He said the

Indonesian Kuching consulate would only issue job orders to plantation

firms to recruit Indonesian workers if they commit to pay the minimium

wages.

“There are more than 200,000 Indonesian workers in Sarawak” 

“There

are now more than 200,000 Indonesian workers in Sarawak, about 70% of

them are employed by plantation companies. Another 25% work in the

timber industry and the rest include construction and general workers,”

he told StarBiz yesterday.

Rafail believed there were an

estimated 100,000 illegal Indonesian workers, mostly in the state’s

plantation sector, who were paid much lower wages.

Citing an

example, he said the consulate had to mediate in a demonstration last

week by some 160 registered Indonesian plantation workers in Pusa in

southern Sarawak as they were unhappy with their daily wages of RM14.

He

said based on RM19 a day, Indonesian workers would earn less than RM600

a month, and that the costs of living in plantation area was high as

the prices of essential goods costed more compared with the normal

market.

Rafail said with the current high crude palm oil (CPO)

prices, plantation companies could afford to increase the wages and

provide more benefits to their workers.

“It is the

responsibilities of plantation companies to share the increased profits

with their employees as workers are their assets.

“With higher

wages, it is hoped that Sarawak could become a main destination for

Indonesian workers, who now have more choices in view of the many job

opportunities in Indonesia offered by industrial and plantation

development. Many of them now work in the Middle East, Hong Kong and

Taiwan because of the high salaries,” he added.

Rafail lauded Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin‘s

recent statement that a formula should be worked out to improve the

wages of plantation workers, be they locals or foreigners, as what they

earn now was below the poverty line.

Muhyiddin said in Sarawak

last week that the Cabinet had decided to start talks with

government-linked plantation companies, beginning with Sime Darby, to restructure their workers’ wages.

The

talks is spearheaded by the Human Resources Ministry Wage Consultative

Council. Describing the Malaysian Government’s latest move as a good

gesture to Indonesian plantation workers, Rafail hoped that any upward

revision of wages could be extended to other sectors.

Saying that

the consulate approved some 20,000 job orders for Sarawak plantation

firms last year, he predicts that the demand for Indonesian workers

could go up this year as Sarawak still faces an acute shortage of

plantation workers.

Rafail met with owners of plantation and

timber companies in Miri and Sibu last week to discuss ways the

Indonesian authorities could help to address their labour woes, and

their problems in recruiting Indonesian labour.

Sarawak Oil Palm

Plantation Owners’ Association said recently that the state oil palm

industry was short of between 20% and 30% of its total labour

requirement, and that the labour woes were expected to worsen as more

land is opened up for cultivation.

An estimate of between 10% and

15% of fresh fruit bunches (FFBs) in plantations were reported not

being harvested and left to rot due to labour shortage. Sarawak is

reportedly losing up to RM1bil a year in revenue due to uncollected

FFBs.

Source : Business Times

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