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Thursday, February 4, 2010

It’s time to act on illegal workers

IREFER to your news report “Wrong time to go after illegal workers” (The Star, Jan 27) which argued that: “This is a peak time for business and big profits to be made. It will create problems for the people, especially the laundry and restaurant operators.”

This is precisely the problem we, as a nation, face each time we are confronted with a difficult issue. Here again, I can see the preoccupation and preference for business interests and expediency.

We want short-term convenience and profit without caring that in the medium- and long-term, the country will continue to slide and be saddled with low efficiency and other social ills.

Because foreign workers are cheap and abundant, we employ them by the thousands. Inevitably we become a labour intensive economy that stifles innovation, resourcefulness and even simple management ingenuity.

I am sure many of us have attended weddings or official dinners where despite the number of waiters and waitresses standing around, the services provided are often unsatisfactory, even deplorable.

I do not see even a simple assignment or scheduling technique being used to ensure minimum standard of service. This is one example of too many foreign workers dictating the way we go about doing our business.

We think with large numbers of workers at our disposal, we will be able to solve all our problems. But they have in fact retarded even the simple management skills that we used to have.

There will never be a right time to go after illegal workers. Today, it is Chinese New Year, tomorrow it will be Hari Raya or Deepavali. If we have a policy, we must have the resolve to carry it out.

For too long we have compromised, oscillated and procrastinated to cater to the business interests which gained disproportionately from the use of foreign workers at the expense of the society. Foreign workers are a cheap alternative to employers because part of the cost is paid for by society.

Sometimes, what is good for businesses in the short run is not necessarily good for the economy or country in the long run. There is no gain without pain. I urge the Government and the nation to make a conscious choice: whether we want a productivity-driven, high value-added economy or we want to continue to be trapped in a low productivity, low wages and low value-added conundrum.

T. K. CHUA,

Kuala Lumpur.

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