A few weeks ago, I visited a Kamdar store situated at Sea Park, Petaling Jaya. The store was not very busy. One female employee was rearranging some rolls of material, a male employee was entertaining a customer and two other male employees were sitting about doing nothing.
Having made my selection, I signalled the two employees who were sitting around doing nothing, in particular, only to have them point me in the direction of the female worker. When I turned to her for help, I was made to wait for a good twenty minutes or so while she completed the task she was in the midst of.
As I waited, a Bangladeshi man – another employee, approached me with a friendly smile.
“Kakak sudah pilih kain?”
I returned his pleasant greeting and managed to get the material I wanted without having to wait a moment longer.
However, once I reached the counter, I was made to wait once more as the cashier could not seem to find his calculator.
“Apa masalah?” asked the Bangladeshi staff.
“Kalkulator hilang. Tunggu sekejap,” the cashier said as he grabbed his handphone.
The Bangladeshi man took a look at my bill and started jotting down the amount after mentally processing the 15%, 20% and 25% discounts offered for my items.
I was impressed.
“Pandai kira!” I said.
He smiled sheepishly.
“Dia belajar universiti dekat Dhaka. Sebab tu la pandai,” I heard the female staff say.
Wow. A university graduate working in a foreign country as a textile store sales employee?
Almost immediately, my thoughts went to another middle-aged Bangladeshi, who used to do my plumbing and house repairs. He wasn’t a graduate. Although he worked for a local contractor, he never cheated to make a quick buck. He reused the parts that could be reused. And unlike other local handymen, he always cleaned up his space after completing his work. Most of the time he even offered to dispose of my trash.
The Bangladeshi men I encountered did not share similar educational backgrounds, but they had similar traits and characteristics. In fact, most Bangladeshis I have met have very pleasant personalities – they are quiet, respectful, friendly and hardworking.
I guess the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi wasn’t wrong when he said Bangladeshis are loyal and trustworthy. But is that a solid factor for us to continue importing foreign labour into our market?
According to the MTUC, as of today, we already have 2.1 million documented foreign workers and another 4 million illegal ones in our country. With the arrival of the scheduled 1.5 million foreign workers, migrant workers will make up about 20% of the entire population.
Seriously, do we have seven million job vacancies in our country?
If the answer is yes, why then are our own citizens unemployed and desperately seeking jobs?
- Somethings just don’t sit right with all we are hearing regarding foreign labour.
If we intend to have foreign workers comprise no more than 15% of the total workforce as per the 11th Malaysia Plan, and if we already have 6.1 million in the country, why do we continue to import foreign labour at the rates we are currently doing?
- If as the Executive Director of Malaysian Employers Federation explained, increases in costs associated with employing non-citizens have resulted in many employers sending back some of their foreign workers before the maturity of their work permits, why are we still opting to import them?
- If the Government’s decision to raise the minimum wage for foreign workers in Budget 2016 is aimed at reducing our dependence on foreign workers as mentioned by MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong, why are we bringing in even more foreign workers?
The truth is, most Malaysians are as loyal and trustworthy and hardworking as anyone else. Perhaps someone ought to remind Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid that loyalty begets loyalty and that to inspire loyalty you have to lead by example.
Perhaps if our government and its ministers put national long-term interests above selfish, myopic, short-term gains and worked on encouraging companies to provide improved working conditions and better wages, then perhaps companies would stand a better chance of gaining the trust and loyalty of their workers. After all, is that not what being a developed nation is all about?