Labour Recruitment Stalemate: Crucial talks with Malaysia today

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Bangladesh and Malaysia are scheduled to hold a meeting in Putrajaya today with a hope of having a fresh human resources recruitment deal between the two countries amid concerns of syndicates.

A six-member delegation of Bangladesh, headed by Imran Ahmad, minister at the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, reached Kuala Lumpur yesterday to meet Malaysian Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran in this regard.

In the last week, Imran said, “We have some outstanding issues that will come up in the meeting. We need clarification on some issues. The decisions taken in the meeting will be included in a MoU [memorandum of understanding].”

He, however, could not specify exactly when the MoU, which is supposed to provide a new framework on human resources recruitment, would be signed. “We hope the market will reopen soon,” he said.

Malaysia suspended labour recruitment from Bangladesh on September 1 last year, alleging monopoly by a syndicate of 10 recruiting agents and charging of high migration cost of up to Tk 4 lakh each.

The syndicate of agents included Noor Ali of Unique Eastern Pvt Ltd, Ruhul Amin of Catharsis International, Ghulam Mustafa of Prantik Travels & Tourism Ltd, Mohammed Bashir of Rabbi International, Zainal Abedin Zafar of Al Islam Overseas, Ruhul Amin of Amin Tours & Travels, ASM Khairul Amin of Career Overseas Consultants Ltd, Tuhin Siddique Ome of ISMT Human Resources Development Ltd, Arif Alam of Passage Associates and Shaikh Abdullah of Shanjari International.

These agencies were selected by the then Malaysian government without providing any basis though Bangladesh had proposed the names of 745 recruiting agencies. Under the G2G Plus deal signed in 2016, the migration cost was supposed to be below Tk 40,000, but it went up to Tk 4 lakh.

Current Malaysian cabinet, led by Mahathir Mohammad, formed an independent committee to streamline policies on foreign workers and devise a mechanism to eliminate corruption in the recruitment system.

Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) earlier urged the Malaysian counterpart for a transparent, low-cost and sustainable process of recruiting labour.

BAIRA Secretary General Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman said they wanted a system where all capable recruiting agencies can operate.

However, there should be a strong monitoring mechanism to ensure transparency and accountability in every stage of migration, he added.

Shariful Hasan, head of BRAC Migration Programme, said the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia had always been tainted by malpractices. Powerful lobbies and layers of illegal brokers in both the countries always made the migration cost high.

For example, in 2006-08 migration cost was set at Tk 84,000, but it went up to Tk 2 lakh. More than four lakh Bangladeshis migrated to Malaysia during that time.

“The migration cost must not be more than a worker’s three-month salary,” Hasan told The Daily Star.

Bangladesh government must make sure that the migrants pay recruitment fees to the agency only through bank. Malaysian government must enforce a rule that the employers pay salaries only via bank, he said.

Hasan said the conditions and salaries of jobs should be very clear in the job contracts. Those should be clearly explained to the workers before they leave for Malaysia. The deal to be signed should include the means of how the disputes, if there are, would be addressed.

“We want everything transparent, and not any labour exploitation,” he said.

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