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02 Mac 2010

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Words of advice on hiring locals to work in restaurants

MUCH has been written about foreign workers, so I guess I just want to pen a little. I have run a restaurant with 12 workers in Penang for about 10 years already and I have only one foreign worker whom I hired two years ago.

During all these years in this business and employing mostly locals, I had my share of heartache, stress and tolerance with our fellow Malaysian workers. These are my words of advice to those who want to open a restaurant and employ locals:

> Be prepared to do 30% of the work yourself, as you can only expect the locals to do just 70% of the work;

> Be prepared to close shop or lose business for absentees and taking medical leave is a norm;

> Be early and open the shop yourself because they are always late for work, even though work starts at 11am;

> Be sure to close shop yourself and check that all gas and lights are switched off, refrigerators doors are closed, exhaust fans are off, bins are emptied, etc because the locals are always forgetful;

> Be prepared to give them more incentives when they do more work, and be sure to put a smiling face every time they let you down:

> Be sure to pay them at least 10% higher than what they wanted and give them 15-minute smoking time every hour;

> Be prepared to lend them money – one of my local workers absconded after borrowing more than RM3,000 from me recently;

> Expect the worst every festive season because they won’t be around.

But despite all these, I still employ them because I understand and tolerate them. I have invested a lot of money in my business and am nearly in my fifties and have no other means to support my family except this business.

The most frustrating part of employing locals is that they tend not to turn up for work. Mind you, I pay RM6 to RM7 an hour for part-timers, and about RM1,500 for full-time workers with free meals, EPF and Socso contributions.

Many times, I had to do the dishes, and once until 2am because the worker ran off after seeing the workload that evening.

SMS like “Boss, I mc 2 days” or “Boss, I got family problem, can’t cme 2 wrk” is a norm. When I see such messages, I have to cancel appointments and dinners.

Staff turnover is high in my restaurant. Last week I put in an advertisement to hire workers, five called up and only two came for interview.So fellow Malaysians, I hope you have better luck than me. I am really tired and I hope to employ more foreign workers soon.

For your information, employing foreign workers is not cheap as suggested by many. If you add up the levy and charges, accommodation and daily meals, they cost the same as the locals. They are given medical leave, annual leave and weekly day off like the locals but at least, they are around and business can be done.


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