Overseas employment agencies, angry at “bullying” from the Malaysian government, have resolved to boycott the country. Agency chiefs say they will no longer send Myanmar migrant workers to Malaysia, as the recruitment industry has been monopolised by a newly instituted system that has changed the fee scheme.
The stand-off was prompted by Malaysia’s decision to implement a “one-stop services centre” that would be the only route to legally send Myanmar labourers. But the centre declared an increase in visa fees, tacking on a service charge that hiked the price almost tenfold, from US$6 to $57. The move came into effect yesterday.
Mohd Fadzli Kadir, project director of the one-stop centre set up to handle visa applications under the new system, yesterday told The Myanmar Timesthat the Malaysian government was unlikely to bow to public pressure from Myanmar’s recruiters.
“The scheme has been approved by the [Malaysian] government. They will not lower the charges. If the agencies want to stop sending workers, that’s up to them,” he said, adding that any decision on visa fees also involved Malaysia’s other neighbours, including Indonesia, Bangladesh, India and China.
U Thein Than, chair of Diamond Palace, a Myanmar recruitment firm designated as the sole service provider for the one-stop visa application process, said his company had no authority to change the application fee.
“However, I can say that the application process will be much easier, and applicants can be sure of being admitted and not sent back on suspicion that the visa is fake,” he said.
He added that the new scheme would lead to a reduction of about $200 in the overall cost of sending a worker to Malaysia, from $850 to about $650. He said the centre could put workers directly in touch with Malaysian employers,eliminating the need for Malaysian brokers and their associated fees.
“We can reduce the fee Myanmar agencies pay if they join our package. The Malaysian authorities have told us more than 200,000 workers are needed,” he said.
U Thein Than said the centre has secured around 200,000 labour-demanding letters from Malaysian employers. However, when asked for more details he said he could not name exactly which factories or what kinds of jobs were involved.
“That is all I can say about it. I plan to talk about it more officially soon,’’ he said.
The recruiters at the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation (MOEAF) said they don’t put as much faith in Diamond Palace’s boasts as the Malaysian government seems to have. Several agency owners said the one-stop service centre’s claim that it could cut recruitment costs by $200 was blatantly false.
An owner of a recruitment agency who asked not to be named said Diamond Palace has a reputation for nickel-and-diming migrant workers.
“The MOEAF is planning to kick out this company from the federation soon,’’ the owner said.
Myanmar’s labour ministry, which says it was not consulted on the fee increase, said it had no plans to change the $850 fee agencies are charged for sending a worker to Malaysia.
U Myo Aung, director general of the labour ministry, said the ministry had written requesting the Malaysian government to reconsider the fee increase, and intended to raise the matter with its counterparts in Kuala Lumpur. The foreign affairs ministry has taken a similar initiative, said director general U Sein Oo.
Until the one-stop centre’s monopoly is resolved, the MOEAF plans to maintain an open-ended boycott of Malaysia, said agency director U Win Tun.
“We have a lot of new labour markets opening up, such as Taiwan and Australia. We can send workers there instead,” he said.
However, Taiwan and Myanmar have yet to settle on a memorandum of understanding that would open a legal pipeline for workers, while few labourers opt to go to Australia due to strict visa restrictions and high costs.
MOEAF chair U Min Hlaing said the federation has counter-proposed that the one-stop centre set its visa fee at $12.
U Ko Lay, owner of Shwe Mandalar May employment agency, said he believed Malaysia was “bullying” Myanmar because it was poor. “There’s no excuse for this increase. If they won’t reduce the fee, we will not send workers,” he said.
He added that a meeting including the deputy minister of the labour ministry, agencies and service provider Diamond Palace will be held in Nay Pyi Taw today to discuss the visa fees and monopoly.
Source MM times.