Malaysia visa scheme negotiations hit snag

Taking a page out of the workers’ union book, overseas recruiters have found their boycott paid off.

A moratorium on sending workers to Malaysia was launched after revisions to the scheme jumped the visa price and allowed a functional monopoly by funneling all applications through a single agency.

Yesterday, the feuding parties managed to negotiate a temporary solution during a three-way meeting with representatives from the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation (MOEAF), the Labour Ministry, and Diamond Palace, the newly appointed service provider for the one-stop service centre. For 8000 workers already approved to head to Malaysia, the visa fee will be kept at US$6 instead of the newly-instituted “service fee” which hiked the price to $51.

The one-stop centre will also revert back to the Malaysian Embassy to renegotiate the fee, according to U Ko Lay, a central executive committee member of the MOEAF who attended the meeting in Nay Pyi Taw. If the fee is upheld, the negotiating parties agreed it will have to be paid by the Malaysian end of the arrangements, either by the broker or by the employer.

“We decided and agreed that if the Malaysian agencies pay for this increase of fees as established by the one-stop centre, we will resume sending labour. Otherwise, we will not send workers,” he told The Myanmar Times.

But U Thein Than, director of the one-stop centre’s service provider, wasn’t quite on the same page. He denied accepting the $6 provision, and claimed instead to only have promised that he had appointment with Malaysian authorities to discuss the visa fee.

“I said that I have to report to the Malay authorities and that I am not sure whether they will accept the approved labourers under the $6 arrangement or not,” he said. “I promised that I will bring their demands to the Malay side, and report back their response. That is all.”

Despite the flagrant discrepancies in either sides’ account, the Ministry of Labour was already celebrating a negotiating victory following yesterday’s meeting.

U Myo Aung, a permanent secretary at the ministry, told The Myanmar Times the problem between the MOEAF and the centre was already resolved, and the 8000 approved workers will soon be on their way. He added that it could take two months to finalise the arrangement, training and transportation for the workers, a window that would give the embassy plenty of time to clinch the visa fee negotiations and come to an agreement with the agencies.

“Creating a new visa scheme is a right of the Malaysian government. Our government also has changed visa fees,” he said. “What I can say is that we are resolving this the best we can and I believe the temporary boycott of the new visa application scheme will soon be done with.”

Last week the Labour Ministry submitted a letter to Malaysia requesting the government reconsider the burden the fee hike would place on impoverished workers.

“We have not received any reply yet, but we think it will be fine since the MOEAF and the OSC have agreed on a plan,” he said.

U Kyaw Zaw, assistant secretary of the MOEAF, confirmed that membership agencies were allowed to resume sending labour to Malaysia in accordance with the meeting results yesterday.

He added that the federation will be taking action against a few scalping agencies that attempted to flout the boycott, and profit by sending workers to Malaysia during the time of the ban, which was put in place on January 18.

Source: Myanmar Times

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