Penang nasi kandar restaurants say swamped with visitors, appeal for foreign workers to enter Malaysia

·3-min read
Customers wait for their turn to be served at Hameediyah Nasi Kandar in George Town, Penang October 22, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Customers wait for their turn to be served at Hameediyah Nasi Kandar in George Town, Penang October 22, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 22 — More than 200 nasi kandar restaurants in Penang said the recent influx of visitors to the state has been good for business, but a shortage of workers means they are swamped.

The Indian Muslim Community Organisation Malaysia President Mohamed Rizwan Abdul Ghafoor Khan said most restaurants were short of staff and therefore, had been unable to manage the increase in customers.

“Before the pandemic, there were about 40,000 workers, both locals and foreigners, in nasi kandar restaurants in Penang. But after the pandemic, we have only about 20,000 remaining,” he said.

He said this meant that there was a shortage of 20,000 restaurant workers.

“The restaurants tried to hire local workers by offering a salary of about RM1,800 per month, along with other benefits, but it is hard to hire local workers,” he said during a press conference outside Hameediyah Restaurant here today.

Indian-Muslim Community Association President Mohamed Rizwan Abdul Ghafor Khan speaks to the press about problems faced by nasi kandar operators during an interview in George Town, Penang October 22, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Indian-Muslim Community Association President Mohamed Rizwan Abdul Ghafor Khan speaks to the press about problems faced by nasi kandar operators during an interview in George Town, Penang October 22, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

He said many of the restaurants had to rely on foreign workers due to the difficulties faced in hiring locals to work in the restaurants.

During the pandemic, many foreign workers returned to their home country, and have been unable to come back.

“Now, due to the SOP requirements, if a restaurant normally needs 10 people to run it, it needs to add another four additional workers to ensure compliance to SOPs among the customers,” he said.

He said the shortage of workers has put a strain on these restaurants and led to some being issued fines for non-compliance to SOPs.

“It is not that they don’t want to comply with the SOPs; they don’t have enough workers to cope,” he said.

He said the enforcement authorities should also understand that sometimes these premises were overwhelmed and could not manage due to shortage in workers.

“We understand the need to enforce the SOPs but they must look at the situation too; for example, if the workers check in when they come to work, it should be considered that they will be there for the whole day until they finish work,” he said.

He said the workers are required to check into other places if they must go out to pick up supplies or attend prayers.

“Sometimes, they are in a rush after coming back, they forget to check back in and they should not be penalised for that because they have already checked into the workplace in the morning when they come to work,” he said.

According to Hameediyah Restaurant, this is what happened when they were issued a RM10,000 fine last week when some of the workers did not check in with their MySejahtera app.

Hameediyah Nasi Kandar owner Ahamad Seeni Pakir speaks to the press during an interview in George Town, Penang October 22, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Hameediyah Nasi Kandar owner Ahamad Seeni Pakir speaks to the press during an interview in George Town, Penang October 22, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Hameediyah restaurant owner Ahamed Seeni Pakir said a few of his workers went out for prayers and when they came back, due to the overwhelming crowd waiting to be served, they forgot to check in again.

He said they had checked in when they came in to work in the morning, but they went out for prayers, so they checked into the mosque.

“We are severely short-handed, and we can’t blame our workers because they had immediately jumped in to serve our waiting customers,” he said.

Mohamed Rizwan and Ahamed Seeni appealed to the federal government to allow the food and business industry to bring in foreign workers to cope with the need for more workers now.

They stressed that they would need extra workers to ensure compliance to the SOPs, other than serving customers.

“We understand that the authorities have to be strict with the SOPs, but they must also understand the pressure we are facing,” they said.

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