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Malaysian Restaurateurs Concerned Over Govt Move to Hire Only Local Cooks

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The Malaysian government will take into consideration the views of restaurant business owners before finalizing the move to make it mandatory for them to hire only local cooks, Human Resource Minister M. Kulasegaran clarified on June 23.

“We will engage with the various stakeholders before the final process,” Kulasegaran told the Star, adding that the ministry will be “reasonable” in implementing the regulation.

The clarification from the minister came after restaurant owners in Malaysia expressed dismay over the government’s proposed move to allow hiring of only local cooks. The regulation is aimed at reducing dependence on foreign labor and ensuring the quality of the local food, Kulasegaran said on June 21.

The regulation will come into effect from Jan.1, 2019, Kulasegaran told the Bernama News Channel, the Straits Times had reported earlier.

Restaurant owners in Malaysia, who heavily depend upon chefs from other Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Myanmar, then urged the government to consider their side before implementing the regulation.

Responding to the concerns raised by eatery owners, Kulasegaran clarified on June 23 that the rule over recruitment of local cooks would be applicable only to “ordinary local food” outlets and not to foreign food restaurants, high-end restaurants and five-star hotels, which require specialized cooks, according to the Star.

“We are being reasonable,” he said, adding that Kuala Lumpur already has existing by-laws that specify that hawkers must be Malaysian, the publication reported. “We just want it to be properly regulated, and have the same laws applied to all states. We want to be consistent,” Kulasegaran was quoted as saying in the report.

Restaurant owners in Malaysia had earlier expressed shock over the announcement.

“It is never an easy task to hire local workers for mamak (Indian Muslim) restaurants,” Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Ow­­ners Association president Ayoob Khan Muhamad Yakub told the Star. Most Indian Muslim restaurants in the country recruit cooks from South India due to the reasonable wages they charge, Yakub added.

“We advertised, offering a salary of up to RM2,500 (S$848) but no one came. It is not easy to find local workers for restaurants,” he was quoted as saying by the Straits Times.

Before announcing the plan on June 21, Kulasegaran met the Indian Restaurant Operators Association (Prisma) in Petaling Jaya, the Straits Times reported.

About 1.78 million foreign workers are employed across various sectors in Malaysia, of whom 71,000 work in the restaurant industry, the publication added. More than a million migrants are estimated to be working in the country without proper documents, and they willingly accept low wages, it said.