Private recruiters against monopoly
Private recruiting agencies yesterday wrote to the prime minister seeking her intervention in halting possible monopoly by a “syndicate led by a Malaysian company” in hiring Bangladeshi workers there.
They made the plea as Dhaka and Kuala Lumpur is set to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Dhaka tomorrow over recruiting 1.5 million workers -- both male and female -- in the next three years.
Bangladesh cabinet on February 8 approved the draft MoU despite a series of controversies since Malaysia last year announced that it would hire Bangladeshi workers through private sector.
“We have learned from reliable sources that in the draft agreement, Malaysian private company Synerflux Sdn. Bhd has been awarded the main job in recruiting Bangladeshi workers, including collecting job demand letters from the employers,” said the letter.
Mohammed Abul Basher, president of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), signed the letter.
“They [the company] want to control the business [recruitment] through the syndicate. Thus, the foreign company through its syndicate members would have scopes to make profits unilaterally, and deceit [workers].”
The Daily Star has a copy of the letter, which also claims the government had promised that all Baira members would be involved in the recruitment process, but the expatriates' welfare ministry has not even consulted Baira about the MoU or how Bangladeshi recruiting agencies would be involved.
“We went to the minister and secretary [of expatriates' welfare ministry] to learn about it, but they did not give us the cabinet-approved draft MoU,” Baira said.
According to the platform, those who deceived Bangladeshi workers in the past are out to control the business again.
Moreover, the economic condition in Malaysia is not good now, and a racket is trying to make money out of the recruitment process. The workers will have to count two to three times the government-fixed cost and yet many may not get jobs once there, it said.
Baira urged the PM to instruct the authorities concerned to include provisions in the MoU so that all Baira members can be involved in the hiring process.
Labour relations with Malaysia, home to some 6 lakh Bangladeshi workers, have long been fraught with tension. In 2009, Malaysia imposed a ban on recruiting Bangladeshi workers, following malpractices in recruitment, joblessness, low wage, non-payment and bad living conditions when private recruiters were solely responsible for recruitment in 2007-08.
Involvement of too many middlemen and charging each worker around Tk 2 lakh in migration cost were cited as major reasons behind the problems then.
That prompted both the governments to go for the G2G (government-to-government) arrangement in late 2012. Under the system, migration cost was fixed at Tk 32,000, but workers were hired only in plantation jobs.
So far, some 10,000 workers have been recruited through G2G system. Industry insiders say powerful lobbies made it a failed project.
However, after Malaysia's announcement of recruiting 1.5 million workers via private sector in June last year, several Malaysian companies, including Bestinet, Real Time Networking and Synerflux allegedly lobbied the two governments to win contracts for management and monitoring of recruitment.
Finally, Synerflux was reportedly short-listed by Malaysia.
Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on December 6 wrote to the expatriates' welfare ministry in Dhaka, explaining that appointing a single Malaysian company would establish its absolute control over labour recruitment from Bangladesh.
The Daily Star tried to reach Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Nurul Islam by phone for his comment over Baira's concerns yesterday, but his phone was found switched off.
However, earlier on February 8, one ministry official said, “It is up to Malaysia if it would appoint a private company or do the job itself. Whether there would be monopoly could be known only when the recruitment starts.”
On the same day, Cabinet Secretary M Shafiul Alam said the migration cost would be Tk 37,000 at best, and that Malaysian employers would pay workers' security deposits, levies, visa fees, and health and compensation insurance.
Asked how Baira could make sure that migration cost would not go high like that in 2007-08, when all the 1,200 Baira members are allowed to recruit workers, its president said as the employers would recruit workers only from the government database and that there would be strong monitoring, there is no scope for charging high.
“We send workers to 139 countries by following certain regulations, and there is no foreign company monopolising the business. So why should it happen in the case of Malaysia?” he said.