On Illegal Workers – A Reply to MTUC Sarawak

By Medecci Lineil

I refer to The Borneo Post article ‘Step up raids without fear and favor, law enforcers told‘ on March 12, 2014.

Given MTUC strong position on illegal workers, i.e. “to eradicate the scourge of illegal workers once and for all”, it demonstrates its prevailing aggressive attitude against voluntary agreement and exchange between employer and employee and more importantly, the spirit of entrepreneurship.

This could be the reason why more than 500 restaurants and coffee shops in Miri are putting pressure on authorities.

If I were an owner of coffee shop I would be frustrated too. Why? Because hiring illegal workers is merely humans acting on two of the most basic desires – economic survival and improving one’s condition. What is so wrong with that? No individual rights have been violated and no real crime has been committed. They are fellow human beings after all.

These worker are illegal? Illegal means a type of immigration intervention that the State has decided to deploy aggressive action against voluntary agreement and exchange between employer and employee. Bear in mind you simply have no right to imprison or punish a man for using his property in whatever way he wants.

This reason is consistent with libertarian principles, that is non-aggression principle and private property rights. You throw a stone at a dog or cat, there will be people mocking you. What more human beings?

Breaking the law? What law? This law is legitimate only when it protects the interest of government and union but not the individual’s rights of foreign workers and restaurant and coffee shops owners. Now according to the news and I quote “The authorities must not kow tow to rich businesses and vested interest groups.”

My question is why are you so keen to weed out illegal foreign workers? Because this intervention will create conflict between those groups who are benefited or privileged by the government and those who are burdened by it.

My interest is to see all participants benefit from the market and therefore all their interests are in harmony. Free market. Period.

Arrest the owners? What evil did they do? Did they poison customers, steal customers’ wallets, kill customers they hate or what? Arrest the owners just because they do not have the proper bureaucratic forms filled out for them? That’s all?

In free market capitalism let both private property owners’ i.e restaurants, coffee shops in Miri and elsewhere think and decide what’s best for their businesses including if there are restaurants and coffee shops owners refusing to hire illegal workers.

The claim that “with half of the outlets having to cease operations temporarily because they had no workers left, proved that they had been employing illegal immigrants all this while” are the unintended effects of policy targeting illegal workers. The owners lose money, productive capacity and customers. Again, I see that further government intervention is causing more problems.

The set up of business is to serve the need of customers not the need of government. To succeed in a free market, business must please customers not please government. The other claim is the workers come to Sarawak illegally and collect welfare. This is not an issue of illegal workers, this is a problem of government welfare policy which is absent in free market economy.

What about illegal workers denying employment opportunities to the locals? Let me give a few general rules to argue this claim, illegal workers as waiters in Siang Siang Corner is bad for native born waiters but it is good for customers. Illegal workers in construction is bad for native born construction workers but it is good for home buyers. So how on earth could we judge them? Just keep both eyes firmly on their production that raise standard of living of all of us.

Secondly, if they really take our jobs, the same logic should be applied to any technological advances. Because technological advances would prove a threat to our economy. For example, the pick and shovel and kereta sorong, to say nothing of the big trucks, can do the work of thousands of workers. Are we to improve ourselves or impoverish ourselves?

Deporting the illegal workers and many of them are likely to return through underground market resorting to actual crime in order to survive. Again, I repeat, more government intervention is causing more problems.

In conclusion, if employers and employees were left free to negotiate employment without government intervention, everyone would truly have an opportunity at business and the highest quality at the best price.

Published in Free Malaysia Today on 18 March 2014.

MTUC response to this article can be read here.

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