Saturday, February 09, 2008

Many Malaysian Firms Flouting Labour Laws in the Gulf

I received the below email today.

Salam Fudzail,
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:-

Article 13
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.

Latest news READ HERE

Cost of legal work/residency permit for 6 months.

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)

Additional fees:

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

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.
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.


Between Two Prime Ministers

Let's read today's reports on two Prime Ministers. Two muslim PMs with different styles and elected from two different 'democracy' systems. Even though one has his own version of progressive Islam, both have obligations to fulfil his responsibilities as Muslims.
They were both on official visits and might talk similar challenges with different audience. The most striking similar challenge was on living harmony, one with different nationalities (120 of them) and another one with different races (3 major ethnics).
I can bet that one of them is really working hard for his country and people and has been delivering with excellence. His vision is mind-boggling but the desert has now turned into a goldmine under his leadership. He is rich beyond imagination.
Another one, with arabic surname to potray his piety claims that he works very very hard to carry out his responsibility to his people as he has promised. His vision is blurred and famous for sleeping during functions and meetings. He is also rich beyond his salaried incomes, so most people claim.
Both track records are for all to see. You can vote who is my idol PM.......and my tidor PM.
First, Prime Minister of UAE.
Shaikh Mohammad meets a German intellectual. He said interacting with
literary personalities was more important to him than meeting politicians.
He hoped cross-cultural cooperation would eliminate geographical demarcations.
(From Gulf News 9 February 2008)

Many leaders promise, we deliver

His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, won over a distinguished German audience on Thursday when he said: “Many leaders promise, we deliver.”
Delivering a speech during a felicitation at the Free University of Berlin where he was honoured with a gold medal for his support and promotion of cultural exchanges between peoples of the two countries, Shaikh Mohammed received several rounds of applause from the gathering as he provided an insight into the UAE’s work culture and ethics.
The audience listened in rapt attention as Shaikh Mohammed, speaking in English, explained his philosophy of economics and how the UAE is today one of the world’s fastest developing nations. Shaikh Mohammed, on the second day of his two-day state visit to Germany, was received at the Free Berlin University by former German Chancellor and Chairman of the Arab-German Friendship Association Gerhard Schroeder, Chancellor of the University and staff.
“I like a challenge. When there is no challenge I feel sad,” he said explaining how the UAE managed to overcome hurdles and build up the infrastructure that is now the focus of world attention. Many people, he said, were sceptical when initial plans of what the UAE wanted to build and do were known. But later these people realised the wise economic decisions of the country.
Regarding democratic values in Arab society, Shaikh Mohammed told the audience that the “majlis” has been a central point in decision-making since times immemorial. He said this in the context of modern democracy. All decisions that affect society, he added, were taken after due consultations.
"We have democracy embodied in our Majlis [council] where the Ruler meets people face to face. We have our own democracy, a free nation and people that are free to say what they want ... Just as you cannot convince me to wear your suits in the UAE, I cannot convince you to wear my dishdasha in Berlin.”
But what drew resounding praise from the gathering was when Shaikh Mohammed informed the audience about the UAE’s multicultured set-up where more nationalities live under one roof than in any other country.
He said: “In the UAE all nationalities live in peace. And if the UAE can do it then why not other countries.”
“Dubai and the UAE are models of human co-existence, so why can’t the world follow suit?”

Shaikh Mohammed told the audience about the challenges which began early with his ancestors from Baniyas tribe, facing tough challenges, while looking for water to quench their thirst, and for grazing to their cattle. “It was a great challenge due to severity of the desert and lack of the natural resources,” Shaikh Mohammed said.
Elaborating on the challenges faced by the UAE after its inception and its subsequent growth and prosperity, Shaikh Mohammad said: “We built a modern and peaceful society in the middle of the desert, with giant projects of international status ...
But, he said, those challenges were met. In this context he particularly mentioned Jebel Ali port, the biggest in the region, Emirates airline, development nationwide and construction of cities whether locally or worldwide with UAE talent and management.
With these words - received with a standing ovation - His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, ended his two-day official visit to Germany.

Now, Prime Minister of Malaysia.
BN machine: Abdullah taking a closer look at the Proton Perdana
covered with BN logos and his pictures which was unveiled
in Kepala Batas on Friday.
It will be used in his parliamentary constituency during the polls.
(From STAR 9 February 2008)
PM: I work very hard
PENANG: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he works very hard to carry out his responsibility to all Malaysians.
“Some of you can say that I’m not good, you can say whatever. But don’t say that I don’t work.
“I work very hard. I really mean it and you know it,” he said to applause from those who attended the Chinese Assembly Hall’s Chinese New Year open house yesterday .
Abdullah said that as a Muslim, he had an obligation to fulfil his responsibility.
“I have a very heavy responsibility and I have to carry it out,” he said.
He also urged Malaysians to make full use of the opportunities available to do well in life and to serve the people.
“It is God’s will that I become the Prime Minister of Malaysia and I am very conscious that I have to serve the people although I personally do not benefit even one bit because of this,” he said.
He said in fulfilling his responsibility, he has to be fair to all Malaysians, irrespective of their ethnic background.
“However, each of us has to strive towards the creation of a Malaysian community that is happy, prosperous, united, harmonious and respected.
“As Malaysians, no matter where we are and even though we are just a minority group, we should feel comfortable and happy when attending a function.
“We should feel at home and that we are in the company of friends and fellow Malaysians,” he said.