Sivakumar Comes Prepared With HR Ministry Heads For “Dangerous” Town Hall Session

Human Resources Minister V.Sivakumar (fourth from left) addressing issues raised at a town hall session organised by the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KLSICCI) on Wednesday, Feb 22. KLSICCI President Nivas Ragavan (fifth from left) commended the ministry for its flexibility in enabling a faster approval for foreign workers in the critical sectors. Photo by Weekly Echo.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 – What was termed as a potentially “dangerous” situation, to quote Human Resources Minister V. Sivakumar’s own words, a town hall session with the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KLSICCI) on Wednesday, turned out to be anything but dangerous.

“It was an highly engaging session that gave us members an update on the policies and measures taken by the Human Resources Ministry to address issues faced by business people from the various industries.

“As the minister brought his team – the heads of all the agencies under the ministry – many of us were given answers to our queries immediately, while some were linked to the various departments for help and others were told to wait for fresh announcements or developments.

“All in all, it was definitely a working session as well with both ministry officials and industry members engaging for solutions and outcome,” said one participant at the session.

A participant suggests ways to counter a shortage of workers in the healthcare sector.

In his opening address prior to the townhall session, Sivakumar said while he had been warned on the dangers of agreeing to a townhall session only after two months in office, he said he wanted to take it in stride but added that he was also prepared – by bringing his entire team or heads of agencies under the ministry to the town hall session.

He also clarified the government’s three-day approval for foreign workers engagement in the critical sectors, detailing the reasons for the temporary flexibility and the safety nets within the fast approval, to ensure that all processes, with the exception of one or two, are adhered to following the approval.

A major issue raised at the town hall session was on the acute shortage of local workers across all sectors of industries, from skilled workers in the healthcare sector to local vegetable markets, said to be overtaken by foreign workers.

On the other hand, a member touched on the freeze on foreign workers for the goldsmith, textiles and barber business, and sought the reasons for the rejection of foreign workers in this traditional area of business that have been going on for more than 100 years.

The minister said he would look into the issue.

The shortage of qualified healthcare workers was also raised. One member said some maids were also doubling up as care givers at many homes when this really required a trained/skilled worker.

She also pointed out that many nursing homes were operating without licenses and the qualification of the care givers here was suspect. She said many of them working in these homes were foreigners who were not trained for the care giver sector and alleged that there had been cases of unreported fatalities.

She wanted to know how ministry intended to look into the problem, considering that Malaysia was an aging society and that proper trained healthcare workers would be crucial to address the issue.

Sivakumar said his ministry was currently working with Majlis Tenaga Nasional (MTN) or the labour council towards reviewing training and development programmes that would be better suited for jobseekers and avoid a mismatch between skills developed and the skills really needed in the industry.

He also said the government hoped to engage 10 private organisations that would be willing to work with the ministry towards meeting this goal. He added that the government would be able to provide the premises as well as other facilities while the private entities, the training and expertise.

Another member, from the medical sector, also suggested allowing trained healthcare workers from other countries be allowed to meet the need of the sector. He also expressed hope that the upcoming Budget announcement this Friday, February 24, will give a healthy sum to the healthcare sector, particularly for the training of healthcare givers and workers.

Sivakumar said the ministry was already meeting up with the Welfare Department on some of the areas.

At the town hall session, some of the questions were tackled by the minister, while the heads of agencies under the ministry took on some of the questions.