I am horrified to learn that some of our Malay brothers and sisters working in a Malaysian interior contracting public listed company and Malaysian registered design company in Dubai have not got their residency visa done by these respective companies and have been working here on visit visas.
The numbers are quite significant and alarming and I was told only the Malays seemed to be marginalized. In some cases some of them had been working here for more than 1 and 1/2year. I was told of a few incidents where they had to run from being caught when raids were conducted and when returning from Malaysia were queried as to why there were so many exits stamps to Oman on their passports.
My worry is that if and when our Malaysian brothers and sisters are caught not only will they land in jail before being deported back but they will also be banned for life all for a few'taiko' that wish to make a quick buck at the expense of our brothers and sisters.
Malaysia good name in the UAE that had been carefully preserved before by pioneers like yourself will be tarnished once these are out in the open.
There are THREE issues here.
This is an important and alarming current issue concerning our fellow Malaysians (hundreds if not thousands and increasing by day) who are brought to the Gulf by certain Malaysian firms either as permanent or contractual staff.
Some of these firms are as reported, awarded billion worth of projects especially in construction sector across the Gulf. We are proud of their achievements to carry Malaysia flag in this increasingly competitive, cut-throat but growing and expanding market.
Unfortunately, in deliberate moves to minimise their operating costs and capital expenditures, some of these major firms are conveniently flouting labour law. For example, in UAE's Labour Law:-
Non-Nationals may not be employed in the United Arab Emirates without the prior approval of the Labour Department and before first obtaining an employment permit in accordance with the procedures and regulations laid down by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Such permit shall not be granted unless the following conditions are fulfilled:
(a) That the worker possesses professional competence or educational qualification the country is in need of.
(b) That the worker has lawfully entered the country and satisfied the conditions
prescribed in the residence regulations in force.
Malaysia pasport holders are among 30+ foreign nationals who are given free visit visa upon arrival up to 60 days in UAE. This leeway has been abused by these errant Malaysian firms to avoid paying immigration fees and other deposits imposed for residency visa to the employers in legalising their workforce.
One common way to get around the law as also a common modus operandi by other errant firms is by exiting UAE every two months, before expiry date of visit visa. The most popular destination is Oman which can be reached by land and much cheaper compared to other destinations with half-a-day day return trip.
Under the UAE law, expatriates working illegally face up to 10 years in jail followed by deportation. Employers of illegal workers could be imprisoned for one month and face a fine of Dh50,000.
However, The Ministry of Labour has started granting short term work permits for six months from January 2. Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi, Minister of Labour, had issued a new ministerial decision that allows companies in all sectors to apply for mission work permits for their employees who are in probation period or who are in the country for a short term job.
This shall be heeded by these errant firms if they care about their staff well-being.
"Implementing the mission work permit will help solve the problem of people working on visit visa and it will give greater flexibility in the relationship between the employer and employee," said Al Ka'abi.
People working on a visit visa are illegal and are thus not protected by the Labour Law. "Contract that protects the worker's right will be issued together with mission work permit and a bank warranty, which is taken for each worker, will be liquidated in case of non payment of salary," said Al Ka'abi.
Brigadier Mohammad Al Merri, Director General of Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department, said the new type of work permit hopes to limit the misuse of visit visas.
"In the next period we expect to reduce the number of visit visas issued as companies will bring their workers on the mission work permit," said Al Merri.
Humaid Bin Deemas, assistant undersecretary at the ministry, said the three-year work permits created a dilemma between the employer and employee, which mission work permits can eliminate.
"Mission work permits will give an opportunity to both companies and employees to test each other before making a long term commitment," said Bin Deemas.
No six-month ban will be applied for workers on mission work permit if they decide to discontinue their work during the probation period, as per the new rule."Earlier only the employer had the right to terminate a contract during the probation period, but the new rule also allows the worker to discontinue their work during the probation without facing a year's ban," said Bin Deemas.
Mission work permits will be processed electronically and companies will be notified online. Companies with less than 500 workers can initially get as much as 50 per cent of their total labour force as quota for the mission work permit, while companies with more than 500 workers can get 100 per cent of their total staff as quota.
Newly established companies with no employees will be given five workers as quota after they pay a bank warranty of Dh24,000.
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Cost of legal work/residency permit for 6 months.
Hopefully, these errant firms will be able to find the best solution by legalising their workforce before some innocent Malaysians detained, jailed, sentenced and barred for good from entering workforce in this lucrative region.
Permit: Breakup of charges
Fees for issuing mission work permit:
Application fee: Dh100
Work Permit for 90 days: Dh500
Renewing the work permit for another additional 90 days: Dh500
Bank warranty for each work permit: Dh3,000 (Companies who have paid the maximum amount for bank warranty will be exempted)
Interior Ministry to issue mission visa: Dh600
Medical Test: Dh600
Fines imposed in case of delays If a work permit is not renewed within
seven days from the expiry date if the worker is still in duty: Dh500
If a work permit has not been used and not been cancelled within 90 days of the issuing date: Dh500
If a labour card has not been issued after 30 days from the date the worker entered the country: Dh500 for every five days till the worker leaves
Last ramadhan, we had a Malaysian citizen detained for dishonoured (UMNO-linked) company cheque.
Operating costs in UAE are high especially to arrange staff accommodation near to the offices or sites. The normal practice in saving on this significant cost is by renting a villa or apartment and putting more than comfortable number of staff to share. The staff has to squeeze, cramp, sacrifice their own space by living in minimum bearable condition. I was informed that a Malaysian firm had put 20 staff up in an apartment, another firm had put about 40 up in a villa.
In parallel, some of these Malaysian firms had already extended their working hours to the maximum allowable under the laws, a few even had managed to exceed the limits under certain clauses in new contract. There are complaints on the unbearable workloads with illogical deadlines but the firms, in trying desperately to make more profits at the same time trying their best to minimise the workforce as well. They are slave drivers alright!
Recently, one landscaping company, linked to a big name in Malaysia has been few times behind in salary payments. It is not a first time and the last one.
Not surprisingly, one of the main players related to earlier staff detention had already announced to close shop due to financial difficulties and non-performance.
This is a bit sensitive issue however it is something that has been happening rampantly in the Gulf. If we can check further on these errant companies, even those which listed at KLSE with Malay chairmen and directors (as per regulations) to make up the list, it is not a myth that Malay staff is being marginalised as a common practice.
Reality is, majority of staff who are working illegally by abusing visit visa under employers' instructions or procedures are Malays. It could not be accidental since non-Malays with the same levels and positions are almost all on valid residency visas and other separate perks.
If Ministry of Labour squad teams raid one of these errant firms, those who will likely be detained, jailed and sentenced are mainly these innocent Malays. Maybe this is part of Barisan Nasional spirit since these errant companies are linked in a way or another with politicians.
The salary and package variation and disparity are also obvious between Malay and non-Malay staff in the same firms. I have personally received a lot of CVs from these fellow Malaysians hoping to get away from the errant firms or hoping for better remunerations with the current prevailing market condition. I managed to assist some of them from this predicament.
These differences are clear as the blue sky when CVs are compared to each other. I feel very sad over this phenomenon in Malaysia context. Is this due to meritocracy or plain racism? I can still bear my frustration if these firms are not owned by fellow Malaysians. Can we blame this to the 'I work very hard' PM?
Some may argue that the Malaysian government, agencies, GLCs and bumi companies have similar practices towards the non-Malays, so semuanya OK. My point here is, irrespective of the race-based organisations, whatever WRONG is WRONG and two wrongs do not make a right.
But then again, those Malays who are chairmen and directors of these firms may be blinded by the monetary compensations as pathetic Ali Babas. They may not care less on the blatant discriminations inflicted on their own race under their own noses. Welcome to reality my countrymen!
We do not want to see our MALAYSIAN brothers and sisters have to pay with their freedoms for these illegal practices of hiring staff without valid visa by our own Malaysian firms.