Rubber-glove makers speak up on labour woes

KUALA LUMPUR: Rubber glove manufacturers said their RM30 billion export earnings target by 2020 can only be achieved if they are not bogged by issues like labour and energy.

In a dialogue with the International Trade and Industry Ministry yesterday, the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association said uncertainty in the supply of workers in the last two years had delayed shipments and put expansion plans on hold.

“The manufacturers in the glove industry, like many other industries, find it difficult to attract and retain local workers to work. They have no choice but to take in foreign workers even though it is not any cheaper,” representatives told at Miti dialogue with rubber and rubber-based industry associations.

Denis Low, the vice president of Margma, also told minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who chaired the session, about the difficulties of keeping to the 1:3 local to foreign worker ratio fixed by the government.

Under the Economic Transformation Programme, rubber production is expected to soar from 940,000 tonnes to 2 million tonnes in 2020 while under the National Key Economic Area (NKEA), the glove sector had set the RM30 billion export earnings target from the current RM8.91 billion in 2010.

On the compulsory health insurance for foreign workers (from January 1 2011), the association said premiums from registered foreign workers is excessive and would not resolve the issue of unpaid hospital bills.

“The Compulsory Medical Insurance should be abolished and the government should only set minimum policy limit and medical treatment to be covered.”

The rubber manufacturing industry employs over 61,000 workers of which the glove sector employs 35,000.

The supply of natural gas was also another issue raised by the association and the Malaysian Rubber Products Manufacturers’ Association.

The rubber products industry in Malaysia covers latex products, tyres and tyre-related products and industrial and general products.

The latex products sub-sector is the largest in terms of sales, with the presence of 165 companies involved in the production and export of products ranging from catheters, latex thread and rubber gloves.

Meanwhile, Mustapa said the rubber trade performance for the first two months of the year showed a 16.3 per cent improvement in export of rubber products.

Major export destinations were China (RM842 million) and the US (RM519 million).

Source: Business Times