KUCHING: Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA) lauds the establishment of a portfolio on Labour, Immigration and Project Monitoring in the Chief Minister’s Department.
Its chairman Eric Kiu Kwong Seng said this shows the seriousness of the chief minister in solving the labour issues.
Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datuk Gerawat Gala was appointed to head the portfolio.
“The palm oil industry has faced many problems related to labour from sourcing for workers, recruiting to rehiring. This process is very tedious and expensive to the industry especially involving foreign workforces,” said Kiu in a statement yesterday.
He pointed out the rapid expansion of oil palm plantations in Sarawak in the last two decades had resulted in many companies facing shortage of workers.
Although oil palm plantation companies turned to automation and mechanisation to reduce manual labour in their operation, harvesting of palm fruits still requires workers.
He said the closure of Malaysia Indonesia border since the onset of Covid-19 pandemic had worsened the situation with many oil palm plantation companies operating at 50 per cent less workforce.
SOPPOA chief executive officer Dr Felix Moh said he looked forward to a dialogue between Gerawat and SOPPOA council members to discuss labour issues faced by the industry.
He stressed that the existing processes of foreign workers recruitment needed to be reexamined and improved as they were very tedious and time consuming.
At present, he said it was not uncommon to take up to between six and 10 months to recruit a new foreign worker, from submission of application to approval.
“SOPPOA has long suggested a one-stop centre and hope that Datuk Gerawat Gala would consider it.”
Moh also suggested that the bilateral relationship between Sarawak and Indonesia governments should be enhanced through more inter-government engagements, particularly between Sarawak and Kalimantan which share common boundary.
He believed that with the participations from industry players in such engagements, many obstacles to recruiting foreign workers can be solved.
“As the new intake of foreign workers remains uncertain in a near term, SOPPOA hopes that the timely establishment of the portfolio would skip its ‘honeymoon period’ and jump start the new recruitment immediately so that further financial losses to the palm oil industry can be minimised,” he added.
Reproduced from The Borneo Post