IOI seeks more flexibility in hiring foreign plantation workers

Last Updated on Oct. 12, 2018, 12:17 p.m.

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 9): IOI Corp Bhd group chief executive officer Datuk Lee Yeow Chor says the government should be more flexible with regards to the hiring mechanism for foreign workers in the plantation sector.

Lee proposed that workers in the oil palm sector be allowed a longer term working visa compared to 2+1 years currently.

He said obtaining the visa was a tedious process and as a result some experienced workers were not keen to renew their visa, thus contributing to a bigger problem across the industry.

"Contrary to the common notion, workers in plantations are not low-skilled," he said at the "Malaysia: A New Dawn" conference today, adding that the skills take time to develop.

Lee said that as the experienced workers leave, they are often replaced by greenhorns.

"Yield in the plantation sector has stayed flat over the last 10, 15 years. One of the reasons (for this) is the foreign workers (policy).

"If their contracts need to be renewed every two years, that could lead to a 50% turnover rate. Even if it is three years, that is still 33%," he added.

Lee pointed out that Malaysia's upstream oil palm industry is already quite mechanised compared with other markets.

FGV Holdings Bhd chairman Datuk Wira Azhar Abdul Hamid agreed with Lee's view.

"Companies invest time and money to develop the skills of workers, and we send them back and get another greenhorn as replacement every two years, so [the companies] lose [out]," Azhar said.

"Maybe the government can be a bit more flexible, in terms of the duration [of the visa]," he said.

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