Approximately 70 percent of workers at the Forest City development project in Johor are locals hired for various technical and management positions.

This was revealed by Johor Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin in his winding-up address this morning on the last day of the state assembly sitting.

“At present, there are 1,182 workers employed at Forest City, via direct appointment.

“As of May 1, Forest City employed 70 percent local workforce across various divisions and positions,” Khaled said in response to Cheo Yee How (DAP-Pengkalan Rinting), who had raised questions on the benefits of Chinese investments in Forest City to the state.

Among others, Khaled said, the locals were hired as project coordinators, engineers and architects, as well as in management positions, including as division heads and directors.

This is on top of up to 40 percent involvement by local companies as contractors and suppliers for the US$40 billion (RM173.2 billion)  joint development project by China’s Country Garden Holdings (CG) and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ).

Khaled also responded to Cheo and Wong Shu Qi (DAP-Senai) who raised questions over migrant workers from China who were discovered to have been illegally employed to work on the project.

Last week, Malaysiakini reported that hundreds of workers from China were forced to put up at the Senai International Airport and on the streets while waiting for a flight back to their country.

“In this case we must be clear that not all workers on the project are from China.

“They came from various demographic backgrounds, including locals,” the menteri besar said.

Apart from arguing that locals are less inclined to take up the hard labour jobs at construction sites, Khaled said there were also other factors that led to the hiring of foreign workers from China over other countries like Indonesia or Bangladesh.

“Companies from China have a consolidated system for all transactions, engineering elements, materials, resources and others that allow them to complete a project at a lower cost.

“This includes the use of workers from China to facilitate the process,” he said, adding that the developer can also communicate in Mandarin with the workers.
He therefore called on the critics to come up with a plan to attract more locals, especially those from the Chinese community, to replace the foreigners as construction workers at various mega projects planned in Malaysia.

The Immigration Department yesterday issued 2,485 temporary work permits as well as 1,682 employment and professional visit passes to Chinese nationals working in four construction locations in Johor.

State Unity and Human Resources Committee chairperson R Vidyananthan said the four locations included the Forest City project.

The 1,370ha Forest City project in Gelang Patah is the biggest mixed residential and commercial development site in Southeast Asia, which is being built on four artificial islands.

– M’kini